Peace talk prospects pall in wake of ouster

August 20, 1991|By Robert Ruby

ISRAEL — Israeli officials yesterday were forced by the fall of Mikhail S. Gorbachev to re-evaluate plans for Middle East peace talks and to begin preparing for a possible tidal wave of Soviet Jews wanting to emigrate.

The turmoil threatened to upset months of planning for the peace talks scheduled to convene in October under Soviet and U.S. sponsorship. But Foreign Minister David Levy pledged Israel's willingness to participate with or without Soviet involvement.

Mr. Gorbachev was the figure who ended decades of Soviet hostility toward Israel, first by reducing Soviet military support for hard-line Arab regimes. He then earned Israel's praise by allowing the free emigration of Soviet Jews.

Officials of the Jewish Agency, in charge of Soviet emigration, held emergency meetings yesterday to prepare for a possible mass exodus of tens of thousands of them. Activists predict that some of the 60,000 Soviet Jews with exit permits will try to cross into neighboring countries within the next several days -- if the borders are open.

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