TEL AVIV (Nov. 19)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir risked a new altercation with the United States on Sunday when he asserted for the second time this year that large-scale immigration required a “Greater Israel.”
It was in essence what he had told a Likud rally here on Jan. 14. When the Bush administration, at the time, called his remarks “unhelpful,” Shamir denied the linkage.
This time, he did so when reporters listening to an address he gave asked if he was harking back to the position that had annoyed Washington 10 months ago.
In his address Sunday at a memorial meeting for deceased members of Likud, Shamir declared that the commitment to the territorial integrity of the Land of Israel is significant “for future generations and for mass aliyah.”
“The past leaders of our movement left us with a clear message to keep the Land of Israel from the sea to the River Jordan for generations to come, for the mass immigration and for the Jewish people, most of whom will be gathered into this country.”
His remarks were quickly broadcast and commented on abroad. He was denounced by the opposition Labor Party and leftist factions at home for imperiling aliyah.
The chairman of the Labor Party’s Knesset faction, Haim Ramon, charged Monday that Shamir was continuing to endanger immigration with his unwise remarks.
WILD VERBAL STATEMENTS
“Coalition ministers, led by the premier himself, appear intent on vying with one another to sabotage aliyah by their wild and daily verbal statements in an apparent effort to see who can cause the most harm to immigration from the Soviet Union,” he said.
But Shamir told reporters he had no intention of making a direct connection between territory and immigration.
“There is no connection whatever between our maintaining the territorial integrity of Eretz Yisrael between the sea and the Jordan River — which is a vital security necessity for the State of Israel — and the mass aliyah which is the fulfillment of the great Zionist dream,” the prime minister said.
Shamir was criticized by the U.S. administration earlier this year after he told Likud members that increasing Soviet aliyah would lead to a “bigger Israel, a strong Israel, Eretz Yisrael.”
Washington interpreted those remarks as rationalization for needing the administered territories to absorb new immigrants.
Challenged on the remark, Shamir clarified his statement saying he had only meant that immigration required a “strong, united Israel.”
But his remarks had severe repercussions, among them discussions with the United States about U.S. aid for the resettlement of Soviet Jews in Israel. The Bush administration has reiterated it will not assist Israel to settle Soviet Jews if they are housed beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders.