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Horev Commission Recommends Drastic Reorganization of Israel’s Immigration, Absorption Machinery

The Horev Commission’s report recommending a drastic reorganization of Israel’s immigration and absorption machinery and major reforms in dealing with immigrants before and after their arrival in Israel, was submitted Tuesday to Premier Yitzhak Rabin. The commission, chaired by Gen. (Res.) Amos Horev, president of the Haifa Technion, proposed the abolition of the Absorption Ministry and of the Jewish Agency’s immigration and absorption department which, it said, often worked at cross-purposes.

It would replace those bodies with a single immigration authority that would receive its directives from a supreme council headed by the Premier but would be incorporated into the Jewish Agency. The recommendations were received with satisfaction by Yosef Almogi, chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization and by other members of the Jewish Agency Executive. Almogi said the commission reflected a deep understanding of the problem. But Absorption Minister Shlomo Rosen was strongly critical of the report which, he said, called for the government to abdicate its responsibility for immigration and absorption.

Rabin has remained non-committal. He said that the recommendations would be studied care- fully and discussed by both the government and the Jewish Agency before any action was taken. He stressed the importance of aliya to Israel’s future development.

Leon Dulzin, Jewish Agency treasurer, congratulated Horev for the “intensive and thorough work” he and the commission members did to complete the report. “The commission’s recommendations are, in my opinion, a turning point and a cornerstone in the solution of immigration and absorption problems,” Dulzin said.

Representatives of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel also praised the recommendations but stressed that increased aliya would not be brought about by changing the methods of aliya work but by improving the quality of life for olim.

THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT

Horev himself said on a television interview that he thought the most important contribution made by his panel was the idea that the functions of immigration and absorption cannot be separated. Such separation, he said, resulted in friction with new immigrants because one authority often did not keep the promise made to them by the other prior to their departure for Israel. He called the establishment of the Absorption Ministry several years ago a mistake.

The commission’s report ruled out exclusive government responsibility for immigration “because of the nature of relations between the State of Israel, the World Zionist Movement and the Jewish diaspora and the special legal, aspect of these relations.” Rosen, one of the two Mapam ministers in the Rabin government, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, however, that the recommendations contradicted his opinion and that of his ministry that immigration and absorption should be a function of the government, not the Jewish Agency.

SOME OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS

The reforms proposed by the panel reflected serious dissatisfaction with the way the Jewish Agency’s aliya department functioned as well as with the absorption process. It recommended, for example, that an emissary abroad should master the language of the country to which he or she was assigned; preferably, that the emissary be a former immigrant from that country so that he could promote aliya from the point of view of his personal, successful, experience in Israel.

It also recommended improvements in the benefits allowed new immigrants with respect to housing, mortgage loans and exemptions from duty on household articles and for additional incentives for newcomers who volunteer to settle in development areas. It called for the establishment of new absorption centers that would give the immigrants a positive first encounter with Israel and the absorption process.

Although the government would continue to set the guidelines for immigration and absorption, the proposed new authority would operate directly under the Jewish Agency chairman and would be staffed by a small team of highly qualified professionals.

The Horev Commission was appointed jointly by the Prime Minister and the Jewish Agency chairman in March, 1976 in response to a resolution adopted at the Jerusalem Conference on Solidarity With Israel in December, 1975. It heard over 90 witnesses during the course of 20 meetings held behind closed doors and sent two of its members abroad to examine the work of Jewish Agency emissaries in various countries.

Political sources here said that the Horev recommendations would not be implemented before next year’s elections because of the domestic political storm they will arouse.

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