JERUSALEM (Dec. 11)
Instability in the rapidly dissolving Soviet Union could confront Israel next year with new masses of immigrants without the means to absorb them, according to government and Jewish Agency experts.
Uri Gordon, director of the Jewish Agency’s Immigration Department, predicted this week that as many as 400,000 Soviet olim would arrive in 1992, more than double this year’s number.
But Israel is unprepared to cope with such large numbers, and the housing and unemployment crises may reach new peaks, Gordon warned.
His fears are shared by Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz and Sara Elspector, who chairs the Eastern European Institute in Israel.
Some aliyah experts, including Peretz, believe developments in the Soviet Union will not be reflected by an immediate jump in the number of immigrants. They believe the mass exodus will come later.
Israel should be prepared for a “flood of immigration,” the absorption minister told the Knesset Finance Committee on Wednesday. He urged an immediate increase in the absorption budget.
But Jewish Agency Chairman Simcha Dinitz is concerned that mounting tension in the Soviet breakaway republics could produce such huge numbers of people wanting to leave that the gates will be slammed shut on all, including Jews.
Dinitz warned Tuesday that Israel may “miss the boat” on absorption while conditions develop in the Soviet republics that make the exit of Jews increasingly difficult.
He is also worried that with a 30 percent unemployment rate among olim in Israel, the United States may enlarge its refugee quota for Soviet Jews beyond the present 40,000 a year.
Dinitz was critical of the government’s absorption policy.
“The tragedy is that every Cabinet member knows exactly what needs to be done but is not doing a thing,” he said. “In effect, the unemployment crisis has not found a place on the government’s real agenda.”