Absorption Minister Under Fire for Remark About Soviet Aliyah

Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz was rebuked by Simcha Dinitz for telling the Knesset on Wednesday that getting Jews out of the Soviet Union as quickly as possible is more important than where they wind up.

Peretz, who represents the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, insisted that Soviet Jews are sitting atop a volcano and that the important thing is to get them out, “irrespective of whether they go to the United States, Uganda or anywhere else.”

According to Peretz, about 15,000 Soviet Jews are waiting to immigrate to Israel, but their departure is delayed because there is no transportation to Israel.

He said about 10,000 Jews a month receive permission to emigrate and could leave immediately if the transportation to Israel was available.

Dinitz, who is chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives, said Peretz’s comments were unfortunate insofar as they gave legitimacy to Jews who choose to go elsewhere than Israel.

He also contended that the absorption minister had incorrect information. Jews are leaving the Soviet Union in increasing numbers each month, and the avenues of bringing them out “are steadily increasing,” Dinitz maintained.

“The quota of Jewish emigrants to the United States is filled, and most Jews come to Israel,” he told Israel Radio. It would be perverse to start sending them to other parts of the world, he said.

JEWISH AGENCY MEETING SET

The large-scale immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel will be the major item on the agenda of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, which opens a week of meetings here Thursday, with an address by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

He will discuss “Priorities in the 1990s” and is expected to focus on Israel’s efforts to absorb the growing influx of immigrants.

The Board of Governors, which represents Jewish philanthropic leadership overseas, will examine the progress of “Operation Exodus,” United Jewish Appeal’s massive fund-raising effort for the absorption of Soviet Jews in Israel, which has not formally been launched yet.

According to a Jewish Agency spokesman, the Board of Governors will be asked to approve a $1.2 billion budget for the next two years.

Board of Governors members are scheduled to tour absorption centers in Beersheba and Carmiel. They will also visit Rishon le-Zion, one of the towns where Israel is experimenting with “direct absorption.”

They are also expected to be at Ben-Gurion airport to greet a flight of Soviet immigrants arriving via Bucharest on the night of Feb. 20.

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