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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      June 8, 1995, V3, #106
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Sharansky Forms New Political Party

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

The former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, who was known as Anatoly Sharansky in his dissident days, is forming a new political organization in Israel, which is expected to field candidates in next year's parliamentary elections.

Sharansky's organization draws on Israel's new immigrants for its base, and puts their issues at the top of its agenda. Some commentators lament that the new group is evidence of a coming fragmentation in Israeli politics and society, caused partly, and inadvertently by a change in the country's election law.

But one of the group's organizers, Marina Solotkin, says they hope to attract support from Israelis from a variety of backgrounds, and to use the political system to involve and integrate new Israelis into society, rather than to cause rifts in society.

"It's a way, and I think it's an only way, to be integrated in this society. Without political power here, you have no social stand, you see, and because of that many problems are."

Solotkin is a researcher at the Russian Center of Jerusalem's Hebrew University. She immigrated to Israel from Russia four and a half years ago. She says Israel's new immigrants need a political voice to bring pressure on the government to address their needs, which she says are similar regardless of where the immigrants come from.

Solotkin says immigrants often find Israeli society harsh and disinterested. "Israel, I must say, it seems doesn't want to be the country receiving the people. Even if the Jews are returning, there is some kind of awkward sense. You see, perhaps the country is tired of being open to every Jew in the world."

The new group's name is a play on words in Hebrew (Yisrael b'Aliyah) which could be translated as "Israel Through Immigration" or "Israel Moving Up."

Israel has absorbed successive waves of immigrants from various parts of the world since before it became a state in 1948. Immigrant political parties have never had much power, with most newcomers preferring to join existing Israeli parties as part of their own integration process.
But some analysts say the immigrants from the former Soviet Union could be different. The immigrants from Russia and nearby countries seem to be retaining their ethnic identity more than earlier groups did. And this is one of the largest Israeli immigrant groups ever, making up about 15 per cent of the population. That could make them power brokers in a way that other immigrant groups never were. But the vice-president of the Soviet Jewry Forum, Yuli Edelstein, says so far they have not been able to exercise that power.

"We've tried hard to work through different public organizations and through different lobbying groups, and unfortunately we can't boast of great success. So the decision is to form a social / political movement that at this stage is not declaring a political party or a list of candidates to the Knesset but it will definitely work with all political forms of activity to try to change things."

Kohl Meets with Arafat in Jericho

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has pledged an additional $7 million of aid for the Palestinian Authority, and says he will consider German participation in two major projects in Palestinian areas designed to create jobs. Kohl made the promises Wednesday after meeting with the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, in autonomous Jericho.

After their 90-minute meeting, Kohl said the peace process must succeed, and must find jobs for what he said is the 58-per cent of Palestinians who are unemployed. The chancellor promised to consider investing in an industrial park along the border between Israel and the Autonomous Palestinian areas. Israel and the Palestinians want to build a series of such parks using Israeli expertise, Palestinian labor and foreign investment.

Kohl also said he would consider investing in the Palestinian airport, which is in the planning stage. Germany gave the Palestinian Authority $110 million during its first year of operation, which has just ended.

Arafat said he found the chancellor fully willing to help his authority. Kohl traveled the 22 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho by bus, taking a break from his four-day visit to Israel, which has included meetings with all of the country's senior officials. He is scheduled to depart today, after holding a joint news conference with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

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