Jewish Agency General Assembly Adopts $457 Million Budget

The Jewish Agency’s sixth annual General Assembly ended a week of deliberations here with the adoption of a $457 million budget for the next fiscal year and affirmations of unswerving support for Israel by world Jewry regardless of which political party happens to head its government. But two major issues that were the subject of lengthy debate by the 600 delegates from 90 countries attending the Assembly were not resolved.

These were implementation of the controversial Horev commission report and the problem of drop-outs-Jewish-emigres from the Soviet Union who opt to go to countries other than Israel after reaching Vienna. The Horev commission recommended last year that the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency’s aliya department be replaced by an independent absorption authority responsible directly to the Prime Minister and headed by the chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization Executives. Those issues apparently will be left to the 29th World Zionist Congress scheduled to convene here in February.

Meanwhile, Israelis attending the General Assembly were heartened by the words of Max Fisher of Detroit, chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, who addressed the closing session in the presence of Premier Menachem Begin.

“All too often we cease to wonder at the marvel of Israel’s existence,” Fisher said. “We forget the stress, the suffering and the anguish.” His words reflected support and understanding of Israel’s problems and were especially reassuring when he turned to Begin and declared, “Mr. Prime Minister, go forward with strength, with conviction and with wisdom. And we will be with you.”

This allayed fears that widespread misgivings in Israel and abroad over the hard-line policies of the Begin government might result in an erosion of support for Israel in the American Jewish and other diaspora communities.

ROLE OF AGENCY ASSESSED

Fisher also addressed himself to changes in the Jewish Agency itself. He emphasized the need for the Agency to be divorced from political parties in Israel. “The Jewish Agency can no longer be an instrument of politics,” he said. “Today the Jewish Agency exists and touches every facet of Jewish life in Israel and belongs to the entire Jewish people. The Agency must have a working relationship with the new Israeli government. It is only logical–but whoever is ruling must recognize the Agency’s new character,” he said.

Fisher indicated support for the Horev proposals which he described as a “beginning” although “it does not have all the answers”. Addressing Begin, he said, “We hope the essential thrust of the Horev report will be accepted as one of your highest priorities.”

With respect to drop-outs, Fisher told the Assembly that “Something has gone wrong with our approach to immigration and absorption.” He asked, “Why are Russian Jews dropping out? Why are dissatisfied immigrants leaving? What is there about the system that we can correct?” He added that “No immigrant need encounter red tape and no immigrant need experience frustration.”

PROBLEM OF FUND-RALSING CAMPAIGNS

Leon Dulzin, Jewish Agency Treasurer, observed in his budget speech that fund-raising campaigns at this time seem to be unsatisfactory. “The problem is that we have failed to get across the basic message of Israel’s needs and their relationship to Israel’s ultimate security and development,” he said. He noted that at times of military peril, diaspora Jewry responded with contributions two and three times greater than the peacetime levels.

“You are the leaders of your communities, the leaders of your campaigns,” Dulzin said. “This then must be your common task: To lead your communities to the full conviction that building Israel requires as much of their understanding and support in times of peace–if it can be called peace–as in times of war.”

Dulzin, a member of the Liberal Party wing of Likud, is virtually certain to be a candidate for the Jewish Agency-WZO chairmanship at the next Zionist Congress. The Labor Party incumbent, Yosef Almogi, will resign at that time and Labor has not decided whether to nominate a candidate to oppose Dulzin. The latter is a strong supporter of the Horev recommendations which has brought him into conflict with his Likud colleague, Absorption Minister David Levi, who insists that his ministry be expanded rather than dismantled.

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