PARIS (Sep. 7)
The World Conference on Soviet Jewry, the third since 1971, will convene at Versailles October 24-26 with the participation of 1,000 representatives of world-wide Jewish communities, ranking Israeli leaders, U.S. Congressmen, and members of Britain’s Parliament, the French National Assembly and of a dozen other national legislative bodies.
The Conference Steering Committee announced after a two-day meeting here that Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy of France will formally open the proceedings and Premier Menachem Begin of Israel will deliver the closing address. Shiman Peres, chairman of Israel’s Labor Party, will also speak. The Conference will be chaired by Lean Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives.
A spokesman noted that the Conference will convene at a time of mounting pressure against Jews in the USSR and sharply declining emigration figures. Only 1,723 Jews were permitted to leave the Soviet Union during the first seven months of 1982 compared to 7,386 during the same period last year.
But Conference organizers pointed out that the first two world gatherings for Soviet Jews in 1971 and 1976, had had a positive effect on the rate of Jewish emigration and that the first meeting in 1971 marked the start of the Jewish activist movement inside the USSR.
BEGIN SCHEDULED TO MEET WITH MITTERRAND
Begin is scheduled to meet with President Francois Mitterrand while in Paris and with other members of the French government. The meetings are significant because Franco-Israeli relations reached a new low after the terrorist attack on a Jewish restaurant on the Rue des Rosiers in Paris last month. Israel charged that France’s Middle East policy had created the climate “which enabled the terrorists to operate.” Mitterrand strongly denied the charges.
Franco-Israeli relations were further aggravated by the participation of a French unit in supervising the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organization from West Beirut and the insistence by the French government that their departure should be carried out under “honorable” and “dignified” conditions.
French relations with Jerusalem have sunk so low that several members of the Conference Steering Committee suggested that the gathering be postponed or moved to another country. Some committee members feared that France could not ensure the safety of the participant These objections were overcome after the French authorities gave assurances concerning security arrangements and after Israeli representatives indicated that Begin wanted the meeting to be held in Paris.