Menu JTA Search

Boschwitz Says He Expects Ethiopia to Increase Rate of Jewish Emigration

President Bush’s special emissary to Ethiopia said Monday that he expects the Ethiopian government to increase the rate of Jewish emigration to Israel from the current rate of 1,000 a month.

Former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) told reporters after meeting for 15 minutes with Bush and his top advisers, “We’ll be watching for the emigration numbers to change.”

Boschwitz said that he and top U.S. African experts, who met with Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam and other senior Ethiopian officials for 13 hours late last month, did not hammer out a formal agreement with the government in the sense that something was signed.

But he did not rule out that an understanding was reached.

The fate of Ethiopian Jews is tied closely to the success or failure of U.S. efforts to bring about negotiations between the government and rebel forces from the northern provinces of Eritrea and Tigre, Boschwitz said.

The rebel forces are within 40 miles of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, where the country’s estimated 18,000 Jews have converged in the hope of being swiftly airlifted to Israel.

Boschwitz said the rebel leaders themselves are not particularly hostile to the Jews despite their ties to Israel, which has been accused of supplying the government with weaponry. He said Israel had supplied Ethiopia only with “very light arms in small quantities.”

“I don’t think it’s the rebels that one would be concerned about,” Boschwitz said. “It’s just the fact that if Addis Ababa goes into an unrestrained (situation), it may in fact be an orgy in which many thousands of people are killed.

JEWS ARE ‘PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE’

The Jews are “particularly vulnerable because they are seen as a privileged group,” he said, referring to special aid that they have received from the worldwide Jewish community.

During a photo session in the Oval Office, Bush told reporters that getting the Jews out of Ethiopia “is a concern that I share, and Rudy took a big step forward there in talking to the Ethiopian authorities.”

Bush, who called the trip a “mission of conscience and a mission of compassion,” added, “I know you got some words of encouragement from the Ethiopian government, and I think it’s a mission that many in this country, when they understand it, will appreciate.”

Also attending the meeting with Boschwitz were Vice President Dan Quayle, Chief of Staff John Sununu, Secretary of State James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser.

Israeli officials have remained tight-lipped about any possible evacuation plans. Boschwitz, when asked if the capacity exists to get the Jews out quickly, replied, “Yes. That means more airplanes.”

In New York, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said, “Everything is set. Everything will be there for a quick removal when the time comes.”

Hoenlein added, however, that “it’s still not clear what the outcome will be” of the Boschwitz mission, which he called “very important.”

NEXT STORY