Israel in the News Dec/Jan 1998/1999

For more Israel In The News, updated at least twice each week, visit our web site at foi.org/news.

Economic chaos prompts Russian Jews to consider aliya
Long lines of potential immigrants formed outside the Jewish Agency offices in Moscow…for the first time in years as the ruble continued to fall, according to Jewish Agency emissaries.

In Israel, Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein predicted that, if the current political and economic unrest continues, some 65,000 people can be expected to make aliya from Russia in the next year. This is 20,000 more than the projected number before the problems began, he said.

“There is a great deal of interest but no hysteria,” Amos Lahat, head of the agency’s unit that deals with the former Soviet Union, said. “There is a process which has begun. It can be seen in the far eastern regions of Russia too, as well as Moscow, which has not been a center for immigration [in the past few years].”

High-level bid to free Pollard
US Vice President Al Gore and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger recently met with senior government representatives to discuss the possible release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard,

The Jerusalem Post has learned. There have been several meetings—including one between Gore and Industry and Trade Minister Natan Sharansky since Israel officially confirmed that Pollard was its agent.

Desalination is best cure for water shortage
There is likely to be a serious water shortfall by the new millennium, Doron Gruper, chairman of the Mekorot water company said recently.

Water use has increased by 7% from 1991 to 1997 and the trend is expected to continue, Gruper told a seminar at Tel Aviv University.

The biggest representative increase was in domestic use, apparently because of the growth in population and higher living standards, although agricultural demand also rose.

Gruper said that the best solution is to establish desalination plants that would be able to convert sea water and briny water from saline wells into drinking water. Until now, such solutions to the country’s future water problems have been pushed aside because of the high cost.

Gruper said that economic feasibility studies indicate that desalination would be cheaper than alternatives, including importing fresh water, and it would ensure continued supplies.

Army destroys tunnel to Egypt
Israeli troops blew up a tunnel running between Israel and Egypt recently. The tunnel was allegedly used to smuggle weapons and drugs from Egypt into Palestinian Authority-controlled areas. It was the fifteenth tunnel discovered in the area this year.

PM scores increased PA activity in Jerusalem
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently condemned the heightened activity of the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem, as detailed by a security report commissioned by the Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem.

The report found that 20 Palestinian institutions connected to the PA are located in Jerusalem and are operating against the law.

“The government sees this activity as an explicit violation of the Oslo agreements. According to the agreements, the PA cannot have any jurisdiction in Jerusalem,” said Aviv Bushinsky, the prime minister’s spokesman.

The report listed 11 PA ministries operating illegally in Jerusalem, including the Ministry for Jerusalem Affairs in Orient House, which is run by PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Faisal Husseini. The ministry functions as a base for Palestinian activities in the city.

Arafat will rally support for state at UN
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will use the UN General Assembly to win international support for plans to declare a Palestinian state in May 1999, Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said recently. The Palestinian Authority has already begun such contacts, seeking pledges of recognition once a state is declared in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip on May 4, 1999, he said.

Jerusalem only 60% Jewish by 2020
By the year 2020, the population of Jerusalem will be poorer, older and have a smaller proportion of Jews, a study commissioned by the Jerusalem Municipality has found.

Hebrew University Prof. Sergio de la Pergola’s 15-page report predicts that by 2020, Jerusalem will be 61.6% Jewish, 10% less than today. Moslems will account for 85% of the increase of non-Jews.

“The simplest and fastest way to influence the demographic balance of the city is to change the borders,” recommended the report, which is believed to have provided the basis for the Jerusalem expansion plan espoused by the municipality.

“On the one hand [the city] can annex Jewish settlements west of Jerusalem to increase the Jewish population, or it can relinquish parts of the city with non-Jewish residents,” said the report.

The study is based on the birthrates, mortality rates, migration to and from other cities and from other countries.

The city will be poorer because residents of “established” neighborhoods—which also have a relatively low birthrate—are leaving the city at the highest rate.

New immigrants will not come to Jerusalem either, because of a lack of affordable housing and lack of jobs for professionals.

The Jewish population will also have aged: The 45–65 age group will have increased, and people over 15 will account for a more significant percentage.

(All articles are taken from The Jerusalem Post.)

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