Israel has plans to airlift Soviet Jews

December 26, 1991|By Boston Globe

JERUSALEM -- Deeply concerned about increasing chaos in the former Soviet Union, Israel has been building an infrastructure throughout the new republics that could airlift hundreds of thousands of Jews in an operation reminiscent of those launched in recent years to save Ethiopian Jews.

Simcha Dinitz, director of the Jewish Agency, said yesterday that although he would not make the details public, contingency plans had been accelerated since the failed coup in August.

"No one can guarantee that there will not be another coup or civil war," Mr. Dinitz said in a telephone interview. "Whenever there is disintegration, minorities are in jeopardy. We are very concerned about the Jews, especially in outlying areas. There are 200,000 Jews in the Muslim republics, for example.

"Between the economic and constitutional difficulties, we must prepare for the worst scenario. We are preparing an infrastructure so that every Jew in the Soviet Union can leave."

Michael Kleiner, chairman of the immigrant absorption committee in the Knesset, also would not provide many details, but he said in a separate interview: "If it comes to genuine chaos, we will airlift the Jews the way we did in Ethiopia. We can take out between 50,000 and 100,000 a month. Arrangements have been made. We have planes, and we can rent more planes. We took 15,000 out of Ethiopia in two days, so the sky is the limit."

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