JERUSALEM (Feb. 11)
Prospects look good for a $400 million U.S. loan to help Israel absorb the new influx of immigrants from the Soviet Union, Finance Minister Shimon Peres told the Cabinet on Sunday.
But money is not the only problem. The Interior Ministry, controlled by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, is refusing to register immigrants from the Soviet Union whose Jewish identity is called into question by Orthodox rabbis.
The ministry insists their identities must be checked to prevent aliens from obtaining immigrant certificates.
A television report over the weekend featured several newly arrived immigrants who complained that they suffered in the Soviet Union for being Jews, while in Israel they are made to suffer because their Jewishness is doubted.
A number of ministers stressed the need to find a way to help immigrants avoid the unpleasantness of having to prove they are Jews.
Peres, meanwhile, said the economic resources available for immigrant absorption now amount to about $1.4 billion. There is $900 million for the purpose in the state budget and $500 million from the Jewish Agency, reflecting contributions by Diaspora Jewry. The American loan would be in addition.
David Levy, the minister of construction and housing, said 3,000 contracts for apartment buildings have been signed, and another 20,000 are awaiting Knesset approval of their budgets.
HINTS OF NEW EMIGRATION
Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, the minister of interior, urged that the new immigrants be settled in the North and the South, in order to increase the Jewish population of Galilee and to end the underpopulation of the Negev.
Communications Minister Gad Ya’acobi urged that everything be done to speed up the immigration of Soviet Jews, because “the earth is burning” under their feet.
Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu disclosed, meanwhile, that Israel is currently making efforts to arrange the emigration of Jews from three countries geographically close to Israel where they are in distress.
Speaking last Friday in Haifa, Netanyahu did not name the countries. He said, however, that “there have been (positive) developments in contacts with three countries around us, and I predict that we will soon see results.”