JERUSALEM (Mar. 18)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir bade farewell to some 2,000 participants to Hadassah’s 75th jubilee convention’s closing session Tuesday night reiterating his controversial stand on Soviet Jews’ refugee status and discussing briefly the “painful episode” of convicted American Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard.
Natan Sharansky, who shared the platform with Shamir, gave an impassioned plea for unrelenting activism on behalf of Soviet Jewish refuseniks.
Shamir assured the delegates that Israel was investigating both the Pollard affair and the Iran arms controversy and would remedy the problems.
“Both the United States and Israel governments have admitted errors and expressed regrets. I shall not go into any details because the subjects are in the process of scrutiny and investigation. But, I can say that, in both matters, Israel offered to cooperate fully with the American investigating process on a government-to-government level. In some respects, we went beyond the accepted norms in relations between states and provided the personnel that needed to be questioned and examined by the American representatives,” Shamir said.
‘A TRAGEDY IN EVERY RESPECT’
Shamir called the Pollard affair “a painful episode in the relationship between the United States and Israel. It is a tragedy in every respect. It has hurt United States-Israel relations. It has upset many of our friends in the United States.”
The Pollard and Iran affairs have been a “test” that Shamir said he hopes both countries will pass. He said he was optimistic that the valuable relationship between the two countries based on mutual strategic interest and values will remain unchanged.
DIFFERING VIEWS ON SOVIET JEWRY ISSUE
Shamir noted his stand on the Soviet Jewish drop-out phenomenon, or neshira, has “initiated a debate in the community, in the leadership and in the press.”
His policy is based on a two-part interest, Shamir said. “First, we must get the Jews out of the Soviet Union. We all agree on this,” he said. “Second, it is in the national interest of the Jewish people that they should come to Eretz Yisrael. This is where they are needed by the Jewish people.”
But Sharansky called for a different approach to the problem. The fate of Soviet Jews is not in the hands of Mikhail Gorbachev or the KGB, Sharansky said, “It is in our hands.”
Sharansky said continuous pressure from the West will bring freedom for Soviet Jews and said “it’s only enough when all our brothers and sisters will be here.” He said there is a perception within the Soviet Union that Soviet Jews are a threat to the regime. “Sometimes we underestimate our own strength,” Sharansky said. Hadassah honored Sharansky with its Henrietta Szold Award for his “steadfastness in faith” and for being “an inspiration to his people” and a symbol of Jewish freedom.