LONDON (Feb. 9)
Jewish Agency Chairman Simcha Dinitz carried his political fight over national priorities in Israel to London last week, pulling no punches at meetings with fundraisers and Zionist loyalists.
Dinitz, a member of Israel’s opposition Labor Party and a former ambassador to the United States, challenged Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to take measures to stem the falling immigration rate from the republics of the former Soviet Union, instead of indulging his ideological proclivities.
If the government puts settlements and territory first and fails to provide jobs and homes for the newcomers, the results will be disastrous, said Dinitz, who is also chairman of the World Zionist Organization.
“In years to come, everyone will forget whether Jews take over another three or four houses in a village like Silwan,” he said. But “if we fail to bring Jews here from Russia, we will be forever accused of a sin of omission.”
Silwan is an Arab enclave within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries where Jewish militants, backed by government funds, have ousted Arab inhabitants and occupied their homes.
Dinitz said he was alarmed by last month’s immigration rate from the 11 republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the successor to the Soviet Union.
The monthly figure was down to around 6,000, compared to over 20,000 a month when Soviet aliyah was it its peak. Dinitz called it a “yellow warning light.”
“We have people sitting on their suitcases in the former Soviet Union waiting to see what is happening in Israel,” he said.
“We are now facing a serious slowdown in immigration and this cannot be permitted,” he added. “We do not know how long we have to get the Jews out.”
Dinitz said the Israeli government is doing too little, too slowly, to provide jobs for the olim. He urged Shamir to take charge of the task, which is the country’s top priority.
“Compared to this, settlements and borders, whatever their merits, are meaningless. We have to reverse the trend of falling immigration.”