Jerusalem, 12 November 1998

IRRESPONSIBLE ACTIVITY BY GROUPS WORKING IN ETHIOPIA

(Communicated by the Absorption Ministry Spokesman)

In accordance with a Cabinet decision, all 3,900 Falash Moreh from the Addis Ababa compound were brought to Israel between June 1997 and June 1998.

Despite the fact that most of these people are not eligible to enter Israel under the provisions of the Law of Return, the Government of Israel decided to bring them to Israel for the following moral and humanitarian reasons:

1) All of them had abandoned their fixed places of residence, and had been in Addis Ababa for over two years — without any status, and without any possibility of returning to their previous homes.

2) Their continued presence in Addis Ababa had increased their exposure to physiological and mental illnesses.

3) The examination of their eligibility for immigration to Israel had continued for an extended period, causing considerable resentment among them and their family members already in Israel.

4) As long as the compound continued to function, it attracted additional claimants seeking the right to immigrate to Israel.

Following the Government decision to close the Addis Ababa compound, all the organizations working to facilitate the immigration of Ethiopian Jews (the NACOEJ and other groups) promised the Government of Israel that they would cease their activities in Addis Ababa, with the understanding that these organizations will join in efforts to successfully absorb the Falash Moreh in Israel.

It should be emphasized that immigration under the terms of the Law of Entry is permitted exclusively from Ethiopia; immigrants from all other countries are admitted in accordance with the Law of Return.

After the Cabinet decision was fully implemented, certain parties began encouraging Ethiopian villagers to come to Addis Ababa — with the hope that they might also be brought to Israel. These groups are acting of their own volition, and are inflicting harm upon those coming to Addis Ababa with false illusions. Moreover, said groups are sparing nothing in their efforts, which have included the spread of lies and propaganda about anti-Jewish pogroms across Ethiopia. These groups have forced the re-opening of the Addis Ababa compound and are attempting to arouse the "mercy" of public opinion, hoping to influence international public —

and, thereby, the Government of Israel — to absorb thousands of people who are ineligible to immigrate. This, at a time when the State of Israel is investing massive efforts to successfully absorb those who have already immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia.

In light of the above, Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein will convene an emergency meeting tomorrow (Friday), 13 November, 1998. Among those expected to attend are Interior Minister Eliyahu Suissa, Industry and Trade Minister Natan Sharansky, Finance Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman, Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Moshe Leon, MK Naomi Blumenthal (who heads the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee), Jewish Agency and JDC officials, and activists from groups active on behalf of Ethiopian Jewry.

All the above officials are united in their intention to stand firm and to ensure that irresponsible organizations do not act affect the welcome absorption of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel.

It should also be noted that, from the moment that the Government of Israel designates individuals as eligible to immigrate to Israel from Ethiopia, the Jewish Agency acts to bring them to Israel as quickly as possible.

Following is the decision of the Ministerial Committee on the issue:

DECISION OF MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON DIASPORA, IMMIGRATION AND ABSORPTION AFFAIRS, JUNE 8, 1997

Candidates for immigration from Addis Ababa compound

Resolved:

A. To approve the principles and working plan concerning the candidates for immigration being processed at the compound in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as follows:

1) The Addis Ababa compound will be closed at soon as possible. .

2) After the closing of the Addis Ababa compound, immigration to Israel from Ethiopia will proceed in accordance with the procedures employed in all other countries where the gates for immigration to Israel are open.

3) Eligibility for privileges and attention in Israel will be determined on the basis of the Law of Return and the Law of Entry to Israel.

4) All processing of candidates for immigration from Ethiopia will continue on the basis of agreement and coordination between the Government of Israel and the Government of Ethiopia.

5) Attention to, and a rapid resolution for all candidates in the compound will be provided, through coordination and consent, based on the following understandings:

i) The Jewish organizations (the JDC and the NACOEJ) will cease their activities in Ethiopia immediately upon the closing of the compound. All operational authority, and treatment of immigration and preparations for immigration, will be administered by the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency according to their current division of responsibilities in Ethiopia.

ii) The Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office will write to the Jewish organizations (the JDC and the NACOEJ) and express his gratitude for the contribution and assistance they have offered thus far in bringing the immigrants from Ethiopia to Israel, also requesting that now, with the closing of the Addis Ababa compound, they cease their activities in Ethiopia — leaving all operational authority, and treatment of immigration and preparations for immigration, to be administered by the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency according to their current division of responsibilities.