Efforts to Reduce Number of Soviet Dropouts Succeeding

The latest efforts to reduce the number of dropouts among Soviet Jews reaching Vienna resulted in doubling the proportion of those coming to Israel in the three weeks since the plan took effect. But the number of Jews leaving the USSR in that period totalled only 201 and the majority of them still went to countries other than Israel, World Zionist Organization chairman Leon Dulzin reported to the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee.

The Jewish Agency inaugurated a new policy last month whereby only those Soviet Jewish emigres with first degree relatives in the U.S. or other western countries — spouse, children or parents — are referred to HIAS for immigration assistance. The others are required to go to Israel or fend for themselves.

Dulzin said the proportion coming to Israel in the three-week period was 31 percent, up from about 15 percent previously. Another 41 percent went to the U.S. where they have close relatives. The remaining 28 percent refused to go to Israel. Inasmuch as they could no longer travel elsewhere under HIAS patronage, they sought help from other refugee organizations including Christian bodies and the anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidic Rav Tov organization, Jewish Agency officials reported.

Dulzin’s report triggered criticism from two committee members. Dov Zakin of Mapam and Fror Zeigerman of the Liberal Party wing of Likud blamed the Jewish Agency for the sharp drop in Soviet aliya. They claimed that if action against the dropouts had been taken two years ago, the Soviet authorities would not have had the easy excuse to tighten exit restrictions on grounds that most of the Jewish emigres were going to the U.S.

Although most committee members supported the Jewish Agency’s new arrangement with HIAS, committee chairman Moshe Arens said that to avoid the appearance of coercion, all Jews leaving the USSR should be flown directly from Moscow to Israel. Failing that, he said, the transit facilities in Vienna should be closed down and all immigrants taken directly to the airport on arrival in Vienna.

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