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Njcrac Statement Affirms Policy of Not Directing Olim to Territories

February 21, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Jewish leaders from communities across the United States narrowly adopted a statement this week that, in effect, urges the Israeli government to abide by its pledge not to direct immigrants to the administered territories.

The stipulation, amended to a statement urging the U.S. government to provide Israel with more financial aid for immigrant absorption, was adopted during a policy debate Monday at the annual plenum of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, which convened here from Sunday to Wednesday.

NJCRAC is the policy coordinating body for 13 national Jewish agencies and 117 local Jewish community councils. The annual plenum is the occasion when NJCRAC constituent agencies debate and set their community relations priorities for the coming year.

The amended statement on U.S. financial aid for immigrant absorption in Israel was adopted by a vote of 201-176 after 45 minutes of impassioned debate, a vote so close that it had to be taken by ballot rather than the customary show of hands.

The adopted statement “supports an increase in loan guarantees from the United States to resettle the hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews emigrating to Israel, consistent with the stated Israeli policy not to use such funds in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and neither to direct nor to provide special incentives to settle Soviet Jews in the West Bank and Gaza.”

The stated policy of the Israeli government is not to direct or settle Soviet Jews beyond the areas which were under Israeli control prior to the Six-Day War, as Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy outlined in a written pledge to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker early last October.


But the Bush administration has been concerned by recent reports that Israel’s Housing Ministry is continuing to channel funds to Jewish settlements in the administered territories. It wants to make sure those funds will not be used to build housing that could later be occupied by Soviet immigrants.

As a result, the administration delayed for months the release of $400 million in already-promised loan guarantees, pending clarifications from Israel. The guarantees were finally released Wednesday.

Israel was frustrated by the delay, especially because it may eventually ask for some $10 billion worth of additional loan guarantees, not all from the United States, to help resettle the tens of thousands of immigrants arriving each month from the Soviet Union.

Delegates here wanted to urge the Israeli government to do everything it can to ensure the United States provides the desperately needed funds on an expedited basis.

The original NJCRAC proposition brought to the floor simply supported an increase in U.S. loan guarantees to aid the resettlement of Soviet immigrants, “consistent with the understanding between the United States and Israel.”

But some NJCRAC member agencies, including the American Jewish Congress and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, felt that the “understanding” needed to be explicit. They proposed amending the statement to include reiteration of official Israeli policy about settlement only within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

As a result of the open, heartfelt and sometimes contentious debate that most delegates agree is the heart of NJCRAC’s strength as an umbrella organization, the original language was modified.


Another focus of debate Monday was a statement urging communication to the administration. Congress and other key players of “the Jewish community’s position in support of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.”

The proposed statement also affirmed “the fundamental right of Jews to live in all parts of the city of Jerusalem,” a right that at one point last year appeared to be disputed by the Bush administration.

Many plenum delegates were upset that the proposition failed to address the rights of Jerusalem’s non-Jewish residents and implied a double standard for Jews and Palestinians.

Some recalled an incident last spring in which a group of Orthodox Jews covertly leased a Greek Orthodox Church building in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, with funds from Israel’s Housing Ministry, offending the sensibilities of the city’s Christian minority.

After debate, the NJCRAC policy statement was amended to affirm ” the fundamental right of Israelis to live in all parts of the city of Jerusalem, while being sensitive to the traditional ethnic and religious character of the Old City’s neighborhoods.”

The final version, adopted by a margin of approximately 3-1, was endorsed by NJCRAC’s Israel Task Force and acknowledged, in the analysis of one delegate, that all Israelis have the right to live in all parts of Jerusalem, but the exercise of those rights must be tempered by other considerations.

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