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July 14, 1995 - Image 137

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-07-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Graveside and Cemetery
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Russian Power

Sharansky hopes immigrants weary of being used
as bargaining chips will flip over his new group.

LARRY DERFNER ISRAEL CORRESPONDENT

T

o quote one newcomer:
"'Stinking Russians' —
that's what the Israelis
think of us. My son hears it
in school. We have cars and
apartments, but they won't let us
have careers. Everywhere we are
last in line."
So said Malyi Peter, 42, shop-
ping one morning in Lily's Deli-
catessen, where the signs are in
Russian, the language of com-
merce is Russian, and the cus-
tomers are drawn from the more
than 20,000 Russian immigrants
living in this city south of Tel
Aviv.
Mr. Peter, a watch repairman
in Bat Yam and one-time me-
chanical engineer in Odessa,
which he left in 1991, said he vot-
ed Labor in the 1992 elections. So
did most of the Russian immi-
grants. "Labor promised a lot and
we saw the Likud hadn't done
anything for us," he explained.
In Tel Aviv two days earlier,
June 7, Natan Sharansky an-
nounced the formation of a new
movement that, if all goes ac-
cording to plan, will compete as
a party in the Oct. 29, 1996,
Knesset elections. Its name: "Yis-
rael B'Aliyah" (meaning both "Is-
rael With Immigration" and
"Israel on the Rise").
"I'll have to see what their plat-
form is, but I think I'll vote for
them," said Mr. Peter. "I think
Sharansky could win seven or
eight seats in the Knesset."
It is voters such as Malyi Pe-
ter — immigrants whose talents
are being wasted and who feel
alienated from Israeli society —
who will be the hard core of Mr.
Sharansky's support. "Until now,
the interests of new immigrants
have served as bargaining chips
for the large Israeli parties. We
do not want to continue to serve
as mere objects for governmen-
tal and party games. We are de-
termined to take our fate into our
own hands," read Yisrael
B'Aliyah's statement of purpose.
"We are not an ethnic move-
ment, but an all-Israel move-
ment," Mr. Sharansky told the
crowd of 200 Russians at the
birth of Yisrael B'Aliyah. Mr.
Sharansky spoke first in Hebrew,
then in Russian.
One of the new movement's
speakers was Addis Bada, the
first Ethiopian-born officer in the
Israeli anny. "Ethiopians ask me,
`How can you join up with the
Russians? They're racists.' I tell
them, 'They sweep the streets
just like we do. They live in mo-
bile homes just like we do. If we

don't close ranks and solve our
own problems, no one's going to
do it for us."'
Yisrael B'Aliyah's focus is to
make Israel an attractive enough
country to lure another 1 million
immigrants from the former So-
viet Union, plus more from the
rest of the Diaspora. It claims to
want less government interven-
tion in the economy, but at the
same time insists on more fi-
nancial aid for immigrants, con-
struction of cheaper housing, and
job-creation programs for pro-
fessionals.
But in the public eye, the
movement's platform is not im-
portant. What's important are
the political implications of an
immigrant party.
Aharon Fein, director of the
Tatzpit Institute, which has done
extensive opinion polling of Russ-
ian immigrants, agrees with Ma-
lyi Peter that Mr. Sharansky
could get seven or eight of the 120
Knesset seats up for grabs. This
could give Yisrael B'Aliyah the
power to determine whether the
right or the left takes power in
1996.
"Forty-five percent of the Russ-
ian immigrants favor an immi-
grant party," said Mr. Fein. "The
population Sharansky is aiming
at includes not only the 400,000
eligible voters among the immi-
grants who came to Israel in this
wave of immigration but also the
200,000 earlier [Russian] immi-
grants from the '70s."
Mr. Sharansky is concentrat-
ing on social issues and is un-
likely to take a hard line on the
peace process. "We're in favor of
continuing the search for peace,
while ensuring security," he said.
The party has no plans to endorse
either Likud leader Binyamin
Netanyahu nor Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin in the direct elec-
tion for prime minister, Mr. Sha-
ransky added.
However, Mr. Fein said, "The
Russian immigrants' political
tendency is toward the right, so
I think Sharansky will try to po-
sition his party in the middle,
with a slight rightward shading."
Mr. Sharansky wants the im-
migrants to become the driving
force for improving the country
and intends to bring sabras into
the movement. It's doubtful
whether Yisrael B'Aliyah will at-
tract many native-born voters,
but even with a nearly all-Russ-
ian constituency, Natan Sha-
ransky and his many followers
are now a political force to be
reckoned with. ❑

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