NEW YORK (May. 15)
Hungary’s new president pledged Tuesday that his country would continue to act as a major transit point for Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel.
“We are searching for the appropriate solution by which we will be able to maintain the process of exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel in a long-term, permanent, as well as very much secure manner,” said Arpad Goncz, the 68-year-old writer named president of Hungary on May 2.
Goncz made his remarks at a news conference after conferring with Jewish leaders at a meeting hosted by the World Jewish Congress. Later in the day, he met for 30 minutes with top officials of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
The pipeline of Soviet Jews traveling through Budapest was threatened last March when Malev, the Hungarian national airline, temporarily stopped transporting the immigrants because of terrorist threats.
Goncz promised that Malev will transport the Soviet Jews for the time being, but said that ultimately he did not “believe Malev itself will offer a solution” to the immigration problem.
WJC President Edgar Bronfman, who also spoke at the news conference, hinted that negotiations between Israel and Hungary on transporting Soviet Jewish immigrants without jeopardizing security could soon bear fruit.
“There is a better solution on the way, but the president isn’t ready to talk about it,” Bronfman said.
‘ULCER OF ANTI-SEMITISM’ WILL HEAL
In addition to the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration, Goncz spoke with the Jewish leaders about the surge of anti-Semitism that colored Hungary’s divisive elections for its first democratic government.
He said he believed the “ulcer of anti-Semitism” opened during the elections would soon begin healing.
“I believe that anti-Semitism, especially after the pretty ugly and disgusting overtones of the second rounds of the elections campaign, will not be more vigorous in Hungary, but will, on the contrary, just fade away,” he said.
But while he denounced Hungarian anti-Semitism, Goncz said he thought the world news media had overreacted to its emergence in the campaign.
“I absolutely do not believe that this issue, which undoubtedly exists in Hungary but is far from being any threat to anyone, should cast such a dim shadow over Hungary’s image in the international press,” he said.