Soviet Emigrants in Israel Rise to Sharansky’s Defense

A group of prominent former refuseniks has lashed out against those who oppose the appointment of former fellow prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky as U.N. ambassador.

The group, led by Yosef Begun, insisted Sharansky is eminently suitable for the post, in a letter published in the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

In addition to Begun, it was signed by Vladimir Brodsky, Hillel Butman, Yuli Edelstein, Yosef Mendelevich and Vladimir Slepak.

Responding to those who say Sharansky’s appointment would be a needless provocation at a time when Soviet-Israeli relations seem to be warming, the writers stressed that Sharansky’s hostility to the Soviet system and his continuing criticism of the USSR is not “a disadvantage for a representative of a democratic society.”

“Various . . . publications have claimed Sharansky has not spent enough time in Israel and is too distant from Israeli party politics,” the letter observed.

“Is this a message that immigrants are not fit to hold certain positions?” the writers asked.

Sharansky has been in Israel three years.

It is the Foreign Ministry’s practice to send no one abroad in a high diplomatic post who has lived in the country less than 11 years.

The letter writers said they themselves were not recommending Sharansky’s appointment, and would “leave the U.N. appointments to those responsible for making them.”

But they were obviously angered by the storm of criticism raised when Sharansky was proposed for the U.N. post.

“It seems to us that the Soviets have reacted with less panic than many of our fellow Jews,” the letter said.

Soviet sources have indicated they have no interest in whom Israel appoints to head its U.N. delegation.

Sharansky’s appointment is being pushed hardest by Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a Likud hard-liner who was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations before he quit last year to run for the Knesset.

His idea has the backing of Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, but Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is said to be less than enthusiastic.

He and Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who has the right to veto major diplomatic appointments, are believed to favor someone with more diplomatic experience.

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