Report: Israel Paid Ceausescu Cash for Jewish Immigrants
Dec. 31, 1989
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel paid thousands of dollars in cash to Nicolae Ceausescu for every Romanian Jew he allowed to emigrate, an Israeli newspaper reported.
For years, Ceausescu received between $5,000 and $7,000 for every visa issued to Jews, and some $50-$60 million ended up in the dictator's own pocket, Yediot Aharonot said in its weekend edition.
Ceausescu was executed on Christmas Day.
Quoting reliable sources, the paper said official agencies responsible for immigration in Israel, including the Foreign Ministry and the quasi- governmental Jewish Agency, acknowledged Ceausescu was paid but would not give specific figures.
Israeli officials reportedly knew of the payoffs for years, but they dared not expose or publicize it for fear it would halt immigration from Romania, Yediot said.
''Our interest was the protection of the Jews in Romania and not what kind of dictator Ceausescu was,'' the paper quoted an unidentified official involved in the deals as saying.
According to the paper, the money given Ceausescu was raised by various Jewish organizations. It said reliable sources in the U.S. Jewish community had confirmed that Ceausescu received the money for the past 20 years.
The English-language Jerusalem Post said the money was handed over in suitcases filled with U.S. dollars.
The head of the Immigration Committee in the Knesset, or parliament, Michael Kliner, told Yediot that helping bring Romanian Jews to Israel meant saving lives and therefore ''all necessary steps were kosher.''
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Motti Amichai, said the ministry knew of no such deals with Romania.
Repeated telephone calls to the spokesman for the Jewish Agency went unanswered.
On Wednesday, Israel announced its support of the new Bucharest regime but refrained from personally criticizing Ceausescu, who had been highly regarded here for maintaining a longstanding alliance with the Jewish state.
Ceasescu was the only East bloc leader to maintain ties with Israel after the 1967 Middle East war, when others broke links and sided with the Arabs.
About 400,000 Romanians have immigrated to Israel since its founding in 1948 and some 1,500 have immigrated each year for the past 10 years.