Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman gives a statement to the media at his Jerusalem office December 2.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel needs an influx of millions of Diaspora Jews, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told representatives of American Jewry during a speech Sunday.
“It is clear that today maybe it is time to take real decisions and the real decision is to make aliya and to come to Israel,” Liberman told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on their annual Israel mission. “With all due respect to all Jewish communities, you know exactly what happens today with assimilation, not just with anti-Semitism and terror threats. I think there is only one place for all Jewish people: Israel.”
Speaking before the group last year, Liberman said Jerusalem’s goal must be to bring 3.5 million Jews from the Diaspora on aliya in the next decade to boost the Jewish population in Israel to more than 10 million.
Reiterating that call Sunday, Liberman asserted that many of the problems facing the country, including the conflict with the Palestinians, could be resolved if such a population increase is achieved.
“If we had that many, we could resolve all problems despite all friends and enemies,” he asserted.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are currently some 1.4 million Jews in Europe
. As such, the bulk of the immigration sought by Liberman would have to come from the United States. Following his comments last year, several academic experts on American Jewry panned the Foreign Minister’s call, saying it was unrealistic.
European immigration to Israel has been rising steadily as daily harassment of Jews and a succession of terrorist attacks, such as the shooting of a Jewish security guard outside of a Copenhagen synagogue on Saturday, contribute to the outflow.
During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, when a government initiative to bolster aliya
from France, Belgium and Ukraine was approved, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe.”
I would like to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are: ‘Israel is the home of every Jew… To the Jews of Europe and to the Jews of the world, I say that Israel is waiting for you with open arms.”
A similar statement by the prime minister following the recent shooting of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris sparked controversy among European Jews, with some European Jewish leaders expressing concerns over what was perceived in some quarters as fear mongering.
“It should be done from love and not from fear. You should make aliya because you want to see your children and grandchildren grow up in a beautiful country like Israel and especially not [because you are] flying away from a country like France to which we have so many attachments,” Marc Levy, a member of the Executive Board of the Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France told The Jerusalem Post following the attack.
“I don’t think he was calling for a panic exodus,” Conference of Presidents executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said of Liberman’s speech Sunday.
Such statements regarding the viability of European Jewish life are echoes of what young Jews on the continent are saying, Hoenlein told The Post. They “don’t see a long-term future in Europe and see Israel as a realistic option.”
Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America said that while he would not have thought so several years ago, he now believes “there is no future for Jews in Europe.”
“You can’t live with a constant threat of being physically attacked and verbally abused and you can’t live with the necessity of having soldiers and security guards guarding every Jewish institution.”
However, he added, “It is simply a pipe dream to think you can end up with four million Jews moving to Israel” from the United States.
Aliya is a personal choice and the centrality of Israel is paramount is the minds of all of the American Jewish leaders on the mission whether they make aliya or not, said Daniel Mariaschin, the Executive Vice President of B’nai B’rith International.