NEW YORK (Sep. 24)
Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres has accepted an invitation to travel to the Soviet Union.
The offer was extended by Genrikh Borovikh, president of the Soviet Peace Committee and a member of the Permanent Committee on Foreign Relations of the Supreme Soviet.
Borovikh led a Soviet trade delegation that met with Peres for an hour on Thursday.
Peres, who is also Israel’s minister of finance, would be the highest-ranking Israeli official to travel to the Soviet Union since 1967, when the Soviets cut ties to the Jewish state.
"I think this is an opening for economic relations between Israel and the Soviet Union," Peres told Israel Radio.
No timetable has yet been set for the meeting, and Peres would have to apply for a Soviet visa before he could travel there.
Borovikh, whose peace group is not an official government entity, told the Jerusalem Post that he would urge the government to issue an official invitation to Peres.
At the meeting Thursday, the Soviet officials discussed with Peres ways to enhance trade between the Soviet Union and Israel. Economic cooperation between the two countries has blossomed over the past year.
Besides Borovikh, the Soviet delegation included Yuri Znamensky, deputy chairman of the Foreign Economic Commission; Yuri Olkhovikov, deputy chairman for state planning; and Valeri Pekshev, deputy chairman of the state bank.
JEWISH BUSINESS LEADERS, TOO
Their trip to the United States was sponsored and financed by Swiss Jewish businessman Nessim Gaon, who is president of the World Sephardi Foundation. In addition to Peres, the delegation met with members of Congress in Washington, as well as prominent business leaders from the United States and Canada.
In Los Angeles, another visiting Soviet trade delegation met with Orthodox Jewish businessmen, as part of an effort to enlist Jewish support for investments in the Soviet Union.
This delegation included the head of the Soviet Chamber of Commerce and the chief of the foreign economic section of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The six-member mission met with representatives from L.A. Gear, a firm specializing in jogging and tennis shoes.
"There’s a great demand for athletic footwear and apparel in the Soviet Union, and I think this is a tremendous opportunity," said Elliot Horowitz, the firm’s executive vice president for finance. Also talking business with the men from Moscow were aides to industrialist Armand Hammer, chairman of Occidental Petroleum.
The sponsor of these talks was New York City Councilman Noach Dear, who said that a good way to help ensure the success of President Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms would be to help bolster his country’s economy through investment.
JTA correspondent Tom Tugend in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)