May/June 2000

Barak Welcomes Millionth Ex-Soviet Immigrant

By Margot Dudkevitch

LOD (May 8) - Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday welcomed an airplane carrying the millionth immigrant from the former Soviet Union since the wave of immigration began in 1989.

He told reporters Israel is capable of absorbing another million, and more.

Barak added that he was especially excited about meeting the newly arrived immigrants now, on the anniversary of the Nazis' defeat and the eve of Israel's Independence Day. He said the former Soviet aliya had changed the State of Israel beyond recognition, making it stronger and improving it in areas such as science, economics, technology, and culture.

Barak extended his thanks to all those who toiled to bring the immigrants to Israel. "We hope that the absorption of one million immigrants will encourage another million to come to Israel," he said. "That would be the greatest gift of all."

Meanwhile, settler leaders yesterday launched a campaign to muster the support of former Soviet immigrants against any further withdrawals from the West Bank, by informing them about how this would hurt their communities.

At a press conference members of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza exhibited an array of pamphlets, maps, and documents, all translated into Russian, with information about the settlers' strategy.

Peace Now accused the settlers of "inundating the Russian sector [and] feeding them...disinformation." The group also urged the council to tell the immigrants how much money was being spent on settlements.

Council spokeswoman Yehudit Tayar noted that many Russian immigrants already reside in settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. The current campaign, she said, is part of intensive preparations for the rally scheduled to take place in the capital's Kikar Zion next Monday opposing the government's intentions to implement a third West Bank withdrawal and the dismantling of settlements.

© Jerusalem Post

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