Major Airlift of Soviet Jews to Israel Reportedly Sought

From Reuters

Edgar M. Bronfman, the president of the World Jewish Congress, has been engaged in secret talks with Soviet officials to try to organize an airlift of Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel, Time magazine said Sunday.

Time, quoting unidentified sources familiar with the talks, said Bronfman is serving as a conduit between the Soviet Union and Israel, which do not have diplomatic relations, and is attempting to organize an airlift that could involve thousands of Jews.

Time said, "The complex scheme, which involves the Soviet Union, France, Poland and Israel, probably would not take place until at least after the Soviet party congress in late February."

A spokesman for the World Jewish Congress could not be immediately reached for comment.

Time said the plan was for Soviet Jews to move first to Poland, from which they would be airlifted to Israel, thus preventing them from attempting to directly emigrate to the United States or other Western countries.

Some 2.6 million Jews are believed to be living in the Soviet Union.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Time last week: "The Soviets have always complained that those allowed to emigrate go to the United States instead of Israel. Well, I agree that is in the interest of the Soviet Union as well as my own country that they go to Israel."

Peres, the magazine said, was cautious in discussing the Bronfman mission, saying the World Jewish Congress leader received no assurances in Moscow.

Peres said in October that an airlift of Soviet Jews was being proposed and that France had offered to supply planes.

Bronfman, a millionaire businessman, first visited Moscow last September and again earlier this month. He visited Warsaw two weeks ago, and in October met with French President Francois Mitterrand.

Mitterrand was criticized for meeting Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski three weeks ago, but Time quoted sources as indicating that the two leaders discussed air links for Soviet Jews to Israel via Poland.

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