MOSCOW (Mar. 28)
Officials at the U.S. Embassy here expect flights carrying Soviet Jews to Israel by way of Budapest to resume soon, perhaps within the next week.
Poland also may soon begin flying Soviet Jews to Israel by way of Warsaw, the officials said. Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki announced his country’s willingness to do so Sunday evening at an American Jewish Congress dinner in New York.
The Moscow-Budapest-Tel Aviv route was interrupted last week, when Malev Airlines, Hungary’s national carrier, announced it would no longer fly Soviet emigres from Budapest to Tel Aviv because of a recent terrorist threat from a little-known group called the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine.
But according to one official at the U.S. Embassy here, that situation “will be turned around, within probably a week.”
“The indication is that flights will be resumed,” the official told a United Jewish Appeal delegation here Tuesday.
The official, who spoke on condition that he would not be identified, said that the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian Affairs, Raymond Seitz, had discussed the matter last week with Hungary’s ambassador to Washington.
WILLINGNESS TO RESUME FLIGHTS
“We made clear that we expect a decision will be turned around and turned around quickly,” he said.
According to one U.S. official, the Hungarians indicated a willingness to resume flights after the United States offered to assist Malev in implementing security measures to prevent any terrorist attack on the flights.
The group of UJA leaders who met with the U.S. officials were here on a mission to help prepare for Operation Exodus, UJA’s $420 million special campaign for resettlement of Soviet Jews in Israel.
The delegation also met Tuesday with Dr. Yuri Reshetov, head of the Soviet Foreign Ministry’s Department of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
Reshetov stressed his country’s abhorrence of anti-Semitism and desire to facilitate the emigration of Jews who no longer wish to remain in the Soviet Union.
But when asked whether the Soviet government would ratify an agreement to start direct flights from Moscow to Tel Aviv, Reshetov was much less forthcoming.
He blamed the Kremlin’s failure to make good on a December agreement reached by Aeroflot and El Ai Israel Airlines on “rather silly statements” made earlier this year, he said, by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
The Likud leader’s remark that it would take a “big Israel” to absorb the massive wave of Soviet emigres was widely perceived as a justification for holding onto the administered territories forever.