By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
More than 5,000 Olim (Jewish immigrants to Israel) are expected to arrive from France during 2014, and more than 1,000 Olim arrived from the US, France and other countries during the 30 day war in Gaza. As impressive as this is, the potential of Aliyah is much more dramatic.
The current wave of European anti-Semitism – fueled by centuries old anti-Jewish European culture and an unprecedented wave of Islamic immigration to Europe – behooves Israel to pro-actively generate (and not just absorb) a game-changing wave of Aliyah.
A pro-active Aliyah policy aims at triggering a massive scale Aliyah - not just a few tens of thousands Olim per year - as was initiated and implemented by Prime Ministers Ben Gurion, Eshkol and Shamir, who valued Aliyah as a top priority, in defiance of Israeli and international opposition and skepticism. This must be set on a fast track mode, and not planned as a medium or long-term policy.
A pro-active Aliyah policy constitutes an appropriate follow up to the war in Gaza, demonstrating and feeding Israel's gumption/resourcefulness, reflecting defiance of threats and challenges, and reaffirming confidence in the long-term viability of the Jewish State.
The window of opportunity for the arrival of 500,000 Olim, during the next five years, is wide open – temporarily - in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France, England, Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Argentina and other countries. It is wide open due to the intensification of anti-Semitism; non-democratic trends and instability in Russia and Ukraine; the expansion of aggressive (and soon terrorist) Islam in Europe; Israel's relative economic edge; and the impressive Jewish/Zionist education infrastructure in the aforementioned countries, which have cultivated pro-Aliyah sentiments. Additional tailwind to Aliyah from Russia and Ukraine would be provided by a formal conversion of the 300,000 Olim from the USSR, whose children serve in Israel's Defense Forces, who are targeted by Palestinian terrorism, contribute immensely to Israel's well-being, consider themselves Jews and are recognized as Jews by Israel's Law of Return, but not by Israel's Rabbinate. The temporary nature of this window of opportunity requires immediate action, lest it would be forfeited.
In order to raise the substantial required funds– which grow scarce due to the cost of the war in Gaza – Israel's Prime Minister should convene an emergency session of leading Jewish businessmen from the USA, Canada and Australia (which are also a source of substantial Aliyah), Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Panama, Brazil and Argentina, reclaiming Aliyah as a permanent, top moral and strategic priority of the Jewish people and the Jewish State, irrespective of circumstances. The Prime Minister should present a pro-active Aliyah policy, which responds to the growing predicament of Jewish communities, while inducing a game-changing enhancement of Israel's infrastructures of economy, transportation, telecommunications, education, medicine, science, technology and national security, catapulting Israel's posture of deterrence to unprecedented heights. Moreover, Israel Development Corporation is able to significantly expand the sale of the highly competitive Israel Bonds to local and state governments, unions, financial institutions and individuals, raising billions of dollars for an historical, job-creating, research and development-enhancing, export-increasing and national security-upgrading initiative.
Israel's Prime Minister should appoint a series of 24/7 pro-active task forces, dedicated to the maximization of Aliyah from various countries. Another Prime Minister-appointed 24/7 pro-active task force should initiate a series of fast track statutes, executive orders and legislation, which would reduce the bureaucracy for the absorption of the expected Aliyah wave. This task force should identify sectors that are essential for Israel, such as medical doctors, nurses, (infrastructure, missile, nuclear, software and hardware) engineers, technicians, scientists, natural gas experts, etc.
Leveraging this rare window of opportunity for 500,000 Olim in five years would constitute a dramatic engine of growth, surging the Jewish State to an unprecedented level, commercially, militarily and diplomatically. On the other hand, forfeiting such an immense, rare opportunity, and being satisfied with just tens of thousands of Olim annually, will haunt the Jewish people for generations to come.