Just recently, the world watched in awe as Israel rescued nearly 15,000 Jews from war-torn Ethiopia and brought them to safety in Israel. One million Soviet Jews are also expected to immigrate to Israel over the next five years. Although the immigrants will strengthen Israel in the long run, the costs of absorbing them in the short run are great. Israelis will shoulder most of these costs. This year, for the first time in Israel's history, Israel's defense needs will not be her biggest expenditure --absorption will. In 1991, $6 billion or 20 percent of her budget, will go toward absorption. Already among the most taxed people in the world, Israelis will also absorb additional taxes including a 20 percent tax on savings accounts, and an increase in the value-added tax on most goods and services from 16 percent to 18 percent.
Even with these efforts, Israel will need assistance from the United States and may ask the U.S. government to "guarantee" or "co-sign" a loan package. This is not a grant or a loan from the U.S. Treasury. Only with these guarantees can Israel get the $10 billion in loan she needs and the opportunity to repay them over 30 years. This will give Israel's economy the time to expand as a result of the absorption of these highly educated immigrants --40 percent of whom have college degrees. Indeed, the Israeli economy is expected to expand 9 percent a year through 1995.
The National Council of Jewish Women supports the absorption loan guarantees that Israel will be requesting from the U.S. government this fall. We are concerned that attempts to link U.S. support for such guarantees to specific Israeli policies would imperil the immigration of Soviet Jews by forcing them to remain in the country as the political situation decays. These guarantees will help ensure the absorption of the immigrants in Israel and fulfill her covenant of safe haven for Jews worldwide.
Gisele Weiss and Helena Galperin, Katonah
September 6, 1991
The writers are co-presidents of the National Council of Jewish Women, Northern Westchester Section.
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