Special Interview Immigrant Absorptionin Israel
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Special Interview Immigrant Absorptionin Israel

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The long standing dispute between the Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry over which should control immigrant absorption appears to be coming to a head following a bitter exchange last week of charges and counter-charges by Leon Dulzin, chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization Executives, who is a member of the Liberal Party, and David Levy, the Minister of Absorption, Housing and Construction who is a member of Likud.

Levy has sharply criticized Dulzin for “making statements that are harmful to aliya.” Dulzin charged that Levy was the “main obstacle” that prevented implementation of the three year old Horev Commission recommendations to create a single central authority for immigration and absorption.

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Dulzin insisted that there was no personal rivalry between himself and Levy, though he acknowledged that his relations with the Minister were not “at their best.” Referring to the recommendations by the panel headed by Amos Horev when the Labor-led government was in office, Dulzin observed that “Three years have passed and no government decision was taken and the immigrants suffer.”

The Horev Commission called in effect for the abolition of both the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption Department. They would be replaced by a combined immigration and absorption agency headed by the Jewish Agency-WZO chairman.


Although he avoided criticism of Premier Menachem Begin, Dulzin blamed the government for vacilating on the matter. He said Begin had announced initially that he would appoint an Absorption Minister (Levy) only until the 29 the World Zionist Congress which was held in February, 1978. But the Ministry remains. “I have had numerous meetings with Begin,” Dulzin said. “He accepted our views on the matter but unfortunately, nothing has come out of it.”

Asked what explanation Begin gave for delaying the Horev plan, Dulzin shrugged. “When I last saw him on this issue he asked me for more time. He keeps asking for more time. I am still waiting but L shall not change my mind on the matter,” Dulzin said. He declined to say why the government was procrastinating. “This question should be directed at the government and to Minister David Levy whose opposition to the creation of the new body is the main obstacle,” Dulzin said.

He defended the concept of “one address” for the immigrant-during the immigration process and afterwards during the absorption process. “One cannot separate immigration and absorption and immigration must be in the hands of the Jewish Agency, “Dulzin said. He noted that “According to the law, the Jewish Agency is responsible for both immigration and absorption and the law reflects the actual needs.”

At a press conference last week, Levy accused Dulzin of “sitting ### high hill with binoculars and criticizing witho###ing …and talking as if the Jewish people are in his pocket and pulling them out whenever he wants to attack the government of Israel.” Dulzin old the JTA that despite his criticism of the government in many spheres, he strongly favored the present government and did not want to see “any other government in which Likud will not be the central body.”

Referring to the idea of a notional unity government, Dulzin said ” I would very much like to see such a government, but unfortunately it is not feasible presently because of the (Labor) Alignment’s refusal to do so.” He said the Alignments should have overcome narrow political considerations not to join the government because “there are moments who national considerations are more important.”


Responding to Levy’s attack, the Jewish Agency issued a statement claiming that many world Jewish leaders have cabled Dulzin messages supporting his position on the absorption issue and criticizing Levy. The WZO Executive is expected to discuss the matter further at its weekly session to morrow.

The Jewish Agency’s statement said Levy’s accusation against “those who believe American Jewry is in their pockets” was an insult to the American Jewish community. “Such expressions and such thoughts are unacceptable by all those who are in touch with world Jewry,” the Agency said Dulzin himself condemned “the spread of physical and verbal violence, the latter just as serious as the first. Physical violence is punishable but verbal violence is covered by Knesset immunity,” he told the Jewish Agency Executive Monday.

Levy is scheduled to visit the U.S. this week as guest of the American government to discuss foreign investments in building projects in Israel. He will enter those discussions in his capacity as Housing and Construction Minister. Meanwhile, the Presidium of the Zionist General Council announced it would ask Begin for an urgent meeting to seek a solution to the conflict between Dulzin and Levy.


The issue between them arose long before Dulzin became WZO and Jewish Agency chairman and before Levy was appointed Absorption Minister. The Jewish Agency, For years, has questioned the need for an Absorption Ministry, a Cabinet post established after the Six-Day War. The Ministry was set up because of widespread dissatisfaction with the way the Jewish Agency was handling absorption at the time and in expectation of a new wave of immigration in the wake of Israel’s 1967 military victory.

Since then, the Agency’s efficiency has improved somewhat and the Absorption Ministry itself has suffered from problems of bureaucracy. The Horev Commission called for an “authority for aliya and absorption” to be run by the Jewish Agency. Abolition of the Absorption Ministry was implicit in this plan.

The Levy-Dulzin quarrel stems from a diver gence of views on who should be responsible for settling and integrating newcomers. Dulzin insists it is the task of world Jewry, operating through the Jewish Agency and WZO. Levy believes that the absorption of immigrants is clearly a responsibility of government.

There will be no Daily News Bulletin dated December 25 due to Christmas, a postal holiday.

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