Direct Absorption of Immigrants Must End, Finance Minister Says

Finance Minister Yitzhak Moda’i has raised eyebrows here by calling for a drastic change in the way Soviet immigrants are absorbed into Israeli society.

“The age of direct absorption is over,” the senior Likud Cabinet minister declared Wednesday. Since the “reservoir” of apartments and jobs that was available around the country when mass aliyah began early last year has been exhausted, the government must intervene in the placement of olim, he said.

While it was not immediately clear what changes he has in mind, Moda’i apparently intends for the government to exercise much tighter control over where the immigrants live, taking into account the availability both of housing and jobs in any given part of the country.

That would mark a move back toward the immigrant absorption system scrapped a few years ago, in which immigrants were sent to absorption centers for their first year, while they learned Hebrew and looked for jobs.

When the Soviet immigrants started coming en masse, Israel switched to a “direct absorption” system, in which immigrants are pretty much left on their own to find housing and jobs wherever they chose. After processing at the airport, they are handed a cash subsidy for their first year in the country.

Informed sources said Moda’i first spoke about changing the system two weeks ago without eliciting a public reaction.

But observers noted that decisions of such a far-reaching nature affecting the absorption process require the approval of the ministerial absorption committee, if not the full Cabinet.

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