Dinitz to Visit Romania Next Week; Debate over Visas Change Continues
Menu JTA Search

Dinitz to Visit Romania Next Week; Debate over Visas Change Continues

Download PDF for this date

Simcha Dinitz will meet with President Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania early next week to discuss Israel’s recent decision to require Soviet Jews holding Israeli visas to fly here directly via Bucharest, Jewish Agency sources said Wednesday.

They said that Dinitz, who is chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization Executive, also will visit Budapest to meet leaders of the Hungarian Jewish community.

A report that Dinitz was already in Romania, given to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by Jewish Agency sources Tuesday, was erroneous.

So, too, apparently is the hotly denied rumor that the United Jewish Appeal would pay the Romanian government $80,000 for each Soviet Jew flown to Israel via Bucharest. Haaretz reported Tuesday that Dinitz had gone to Romania to wrap up the deal.

Sharp controversy, meanwhile, continued over the Cabinet’s June 19 decision restricting Israeli visas to those Soviet Jewish immigrants committed to resettling in Israel. They will have to pick up their visas at the Israeli Embassy in Bucharest and then fly directly to Tel Aviv.

Some Israeli politicians and a number of prominent former refuseniks living in Israel have denounced the new policy as coercive and likely to diminish, rather than increase, the number of Soviet Jews seeking exit permits.

But the Cabinet decision won powerful support Wednesday when President Chaim Herzog spoke in favor of it to reporters during a visit to northern Israel.


Also supportive is Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a longtime Soviet Jewry activist, who is attending the Jewish Agency Assembly here.

Abram, who is also chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said his organization advocates a two-track system as “the way to preserve freedom of choice and to prevent the debasing and abuse of the integrity of the Israeli visa.”

By the two-track system, he means that Soviet Jews leaving on the strength of Israeli visas should come to Israel, while those seeking family reunification in the West should depart the USSR with visas from the countries of their choice.

According to Abram, Soviet policy now permits this. Since last January, 300 Soviet Jews have immigrated to the United States with American visas, three times the number permitted to do so in 1987.

Abram apparently subscribes to the rationale offered by Dinitz and Jewish Agency Board of Governors chairman Mendel Kaplan: that Israeli visas should not be used to transfer Jews “from one Diaspora to another.”

“Emigrating. Soviet Jews must be rescued to a place where they will remain Jews, lest they disappear forever down the memory hole of history,” Abram said.

But there is still strong opposition to this at the Jewish Agency Assembly. The agency’s overseas fund-raising component balked at the Cabinet’s scheme. The Board of Governors is scheduled to debate the issue again on Friday.

Feelings on the subject are running high in Israel. The head of the Association of Building Contractors here sent a telegram to Premier Yitzhak Shamir on Wednesday urging that Jews not be brought here against their will. Instead, he said, a better atmosphere of absorption should be fostered to encourage voluntary aliyah.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund