Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Community Relations Councils Call for Settlements Moratorium

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Community Relations Councils Call for Settlements Moratorium

Article excerpt

Concerned about the negative impact that settling Soviet Jews in the West Bank and Gaza Strip could have on aliyah (immigration to Israel), fundraising for Soviet Jews and Jewish-Arab relations, the annual plenary meeting of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) voted 216 to 207 for a resolution urging a moratorium on the construction of Jewish settlements in the territories.

The resolution adopted by the annual plenary of NJCRAC, an umbrella group of over 100 grassroots community relations councils and 13 national organizations, said that new housing construction in the West Bank and Gaza "may detract from the aliyah potential and our fundraising" and also "increase tensions between Israelis and Palestinians living there, possibly disrupting delicate negotiations." Jewish fundraising organizations in the US are committed to raise $420 million to help Israel absorb the approximately one million Soviet Jews expected to arrive there over the next several years.

The NJCRAC resolution is being viewed as a response to a statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir last January, when he said the enormous influx of Soviet Jews into Israel would require a "big Israel," clearly a rationalization for keeping the West Bank and Gaza. The US government reacted to Shamir's statement by announcing that Israel's request for $400 million in additional foreign aid to facilitate settlement in Israel of Soviet Jews would be tied to a promise to halt new settlements. And under pressure from Arab states, the Soviet Union decided to delay the implementation of direct flights between Moscow and Jerusalem, which would facilitate the movement of Soviet Jews to Israel. Soviet Jews must now pass through Bucharest, Budapest or Vienna in order to reach Israel. …

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