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Report: 1 Million Soviets to Israel in Next Two Years

September 13, 1990

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The number of Soviet Jewish emigres could exceed 1 million over the next two years and Israeli officials are struggling for money to handle the possible influx, a newspaper reported today.

About 400,000 Soviet immigrants are expected in 1991 and between 400,000 and 650,000 in 1992, the Davar daily newspaper said, quoting testimony before a ministerial committee on immigrant absorption.

The figures were based on the estimated 1.2 million Soviet Jews who have applied for exit permits, the paper said.

Some officials believe a reported rise in anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union will contribute to the immigrant increase.

About 88,000 Soviet Jews have come to Israel so far this year, and the number could reach 150,000 by December, acccording to the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, which handles immigration.

But estimates by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and other officials forecast about 1 million Soviet Jews will arrive over the next 10 years.

Jewish Agency spokesman Gad Ben-Ari said he expects the pace of immigration to increase, but declined to give specific figures.

Another Jewish Agency official, Yehuda Weinraub, said applications for exit permits were not a measure for the rate of immigration.

″It’s a very long process from then on before they come here,″ Weinraub said.

Davar noted in its reports that figures might fluctuate, citing the amount of anti-Semitic activity in the Soviet Union and how successfully the current immigrants adjust to life in Israel.

Michael Kleiner, head of Parliament’s Immigrant Absorption Committee, said government officials are trying to downplay the pace of immigration because they are overwhelmed.

″It’s wishful thinking that the Soviets are going to arrive slowly over the years,″ said Kleiner of Shamir’s rigth-wing Likud bloc. ″Someone who is in a panic over anti-Semitism, doesn’t plan to leave in five years, he wants to leave now.″

The Jewish Agency says Israel needs $20 billion to absorb 1 million immigrants, while Kleiner put the figure at $30 billion.

″The problem is that we don’t have the resources. There is no logical way how Israel can raise $30 billion over the next two or three years,″ he said.

Israel has budgeted $2.3 billion over the next three years for immigrant absorption.

The Jewish Agency has funneled $740 million in help from abroad, and the International Israel Bonds campaign pledged to raise $1 billion this year.

Israel Televison reported Wednesday night that of the 100,000 Soviet Jews who arrived since last year, only 8,000 have found jobs. The report did not say how many immigrants were in the job market, or how many were children or elderly.

Ben-Ari noted that many of the adult newcomers are still enrolled in Hebrew classes and are not yet looking for work. He said that of the 13,000 who arrived last year, more than 50 percent found work.

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