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Sharon Quits As ‘absorption Czar’ As Public Eye Turns to Immigrants

March 11, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Housing Minister Ariel Sharon announced his resignation Sunday as chairman of the Cabinet committee on immigration and absorption.

The outspoken Likud minister has been a constant critic of the government’s failure to provide sufficient housing and jobs for immigrants from the Soviet Union.

His letter of resignation to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said he could no longer assume responsibility for the mishandling of absorption problems and accused Shamir of not backing him sufficiently.

Sharon blamed in particular the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which he had formerly headed, for failing to create more jobs for immigrants.

He also blasted the recent decision to reduce the subsidy given immigrant families to tide them over their first year in Israel. The handout of about $11,000 in cash and services for a family of three has been reduced to $7,000, a portion of it loans rather than outright grants.

Political analysts suggested Sharon was trying to distance himself from intractable absorption problems, which have captured public attention since the Persian Gulf war ended.

For example, Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Achronot, published a photograph Sunday of new olim scavenging for leftover fruit and vegetables Friday just before Shabbat closing time at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv.

Other observers linked Sharon’s move to his conflict with Shamir on foreign policy issues.

But he resigned after the Cabinet rejected his urgent demand to admit 10,000 foreign construction workers to supplement the local force, which is heavily dependent on Arab labor from the administered territories.

Several ministers were appalled by the idea of admitting foreign workers when there is double-digit unemployment in Israel.

One of the most vociferous opponents was Menachem Porush of the Agudat Yisrael party, who runs the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry with the title of deputy minister.

The Cabinet finally accepted a compromise proposed by Shamir allowing in 5,000 foreign workers on condition the that construction industry hires one local worker for each foreigner.

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