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Soviets Would Forfeit Peace Role if They Cut off Aliyah, Says Shamir

June 22, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Soviet Union could endanger its status as a partner in the Middle East peace process if it does anything to restrict the immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir warned this week.

Addressing the Zionist General Council on Tuesday, Shamir said, “I call on the Soviet Union not to respond to the Arab incitement campaign. Whoever fights against aliyah challenges Israel’s right to exist and is not worthy of being a party to peace efforts.”

Shamir told the gathering of Zionist leaders from around the world that “aliyah does not threaten anyone. There is not the slightest doubt that the campaign (against settling immigrants in the territories) is only an excuse for those opposed to aliyah itself.”

“The government of Israel has no policy of directing immigrants to Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and in fact, the olim are choosing to settle elsewhere,” the prime minister said. “I and my colleagues in the Cabinet have announced this dozens of times, and anyone who doesn’t believe it can go see for himself.”

Shamir assured the Zionist leaders that his new government was making a serious effort to deal with the mass absorption of Soviet Jews.

He said a ministerial committee on aliyah and absorption, headed by Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, has been set up to deal with the main issues of housing and employment.

“The committee has funds at its disposal, and the Israel Lands Administration is being transferred to the Housing Ministry, so that land for housing will be allocated more efficiently,” he said.


Last year, the government initiated construction of some 3,000 housing units. But this year, the number has jumped to 45,000, Shamir said. Until the construction industry catches up with the increased demand, the Housing Ministry will use prefabricated housing, both imported and locally made, he said.

Sharon also announced this week that he would like to set up 40,000 one-story houses, at 30 different sites throughout the country, as soon as possible to solve the housing crunch. He hopes that by December, 7,000 new apartments can be built per month.

The other major issue facing the immigrants is employment. On that score, Shamir told the Zionist leaders that Israel is “redoubling our efforts to encourage new investment by Israeli and foreign businessmen.

“More must be done to attract investment in high technology, with a minimum of bureaucracy involved,” he said. “We expect the Jewish business community to take part in this effort, by investing in new firms and securing markets for Israeli products.”

The government will also help olim set up businesses and provide job retraining, he said.

“I saw for myself in Petach Tikva that, at least for the time being, many olim are willing to work in factories at unskilled jobs or do shift work,” Shamir said. “They study Hebrew during the day and work in factories at night — and they are happy.”

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