Experts Disagree over How Many Soviet Olim Will Come to Israel

A sharp rise was predicted Monday for the number of immigrants from the Soviet Union coming to Israel in the months ahead.

The projection by Moshe Nativ, director general of the Jewish Agency, differed from a forecast made Sunday by Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz, who said the figures would remain low this month and next.

Nativ, who just returned from a 12-day visit to the Soviet Union, told the weekly meeting of the World Zionist Organization Executive that requests for Israeli visas had doubled in Moldavia and in the major cities of the Ukraine.

He said he analyzed the situation in light of the new Soviet emigration laws, which take effect July 1.

At that time, Soviet emigrants will be issued passports, an entirely new procedure, which is expected to bog down the OVIR visa agency.

For that reason, many Jews holding visas are expected to leave earlier than planned.

Yuri Reshetov, the Soviet Foreign Ministry official responsible for human rights, told Nativ that the Soviet authorities would try to ensure by administrative means that Jews bound for Israel would not be unduly delayed, even after the new law takes effect.

Nativ said similar assurances were given to Shoshana Cardin, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

According to Nativ, older Soviet Jews planning aliyah have postponed their departure in order to leave with passports, which allow them to keep their Soviet citizenship and hold property in the Soviet Union.

But younger Jews doubt the new law will be implemented and are anxious to leave, Nativ said. He said the trend is that would-be immigrants over 50 encourage their children to leave first and promise to join them once they are established in Israel.

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