Soviet Jews Arrive on Christian-Financed Flight With AM-Arab Summit
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ More than 200 Soviet immigrants arrived in Israel on Monday on a flight financed by Christian supporters of the Jewish state.
Representatives of the Jerusalem-based International Christian Embassy met the immigrants at the Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, holding flowers and placards that read ″Operation Second Exodus.″
The immigrants, who arrived via Hungary, were also met by U.S. Reps. William Lehman of Florida and Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, who are in Israel to study resettlement programs for Soviet Jews.
The two Democrats said they would be discussing the issue with Israeli officials, focusing on the settlement of immigrants in the occupied territories.
″We have been told that more than 99 percent of the refugees are choosing to live elsewhere other than in occupied areas, but this will be discussed in detail when we meet government officials,″ DeFazio told reporters.
The United States and the Soviet Union strongly object to the settlement of Soviet immigrants in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, areas captured by Israel in 1967. The Arab countries view such resettlement as part of an Israeli expansionist plot to drive Palestinians out.
Israel says it has no policy of directing immigrants to the occupied areas although it cannot stop them from choosing to settle there. Only about 200 of the 48,000 Soviet Jews who have arrived since 1989 have settled in the occupied territories.
Johann Luckhoff, director of the International Christian Embassy, said his group has managed to raise about $150,000 to fund two flights of Soviet Jews and intends to continue the campaign. The group represents Christian supporters of Israel in more than 70 countries.
Luckhoff said in a statement that, ″We are actually involved in saving lives ... and we are also helping the Jewish people fulfill their destiny of returning to their roots in the land of Israel.″