(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Spokesman)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today decided that the remainder of the Falashmura in Ethiopia would be brought to Israel by the end of 2007. In order to achieve this aim, the number of immigrants will be doubled, starting from June 2005.

The Prime Minister met with Justice Minister and Minister for Immigrant Absorption Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Ophir Pines, Minister-without-Portfolio Natan Sharansky, Jewish Agency Chairman Sallai Meridor, Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ilan Cohen, Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon, and representatives of various ministries at his office today.

Sharon said: "We must make every effort to increase immigration and therefore the Treasury will have to set aside additional resources in order to achieve this aim." He emphasized that he places great importance on immigration, especially as a solution to the problems of the Falashmura in Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Sharon instructed the interior minister – in cooperation with the Ministry for Immigrant Absorption, the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, and the Jewish Agency – to present a comprehensive and detailed plan for the Falashmura aliya within three months.

The plan should include an agreement with Jewish organizations operating in Ethiopian camps to stop their work there and transfer the camps to the sole responsibility of the Jewish Agency.

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“The decision of the Prime Minister on the issue of the Falashmura is a Zionist decision of the highest order, and I salute him on his leadership”, said Jewish Agency Chairman Sallai Meridor following today’s meeting convened by Prime Minister Sharon on the subject.

Following today’s meeting, Meridor instructed the relevant bodies in the Jewish Agency to prepare to take on full responsibility within the coming months for running the compounds in Addis Ababa and Gondar in Ethiopia, where the Falashmura wait prior to receiving approval for immigration to Israel.

Similarly the Jewish Agency will assist the respective government ministries to conclude the eligibility process of the Falashmura to immigrate to Israel and to consolidate the lists of those eligible in order to prevent the unclear situation that exists today.