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August 23, 2012 10:02 am

Aliyah to Israel Takes Hit Over Fears of Iranian Conflict

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An El Al plane at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. Photo: Raimond Spekking.

Despite an increase in the first 6 months of 2012 in aliyah participants (Jews who choose to immigrate to Israel from other countries around the world) from the previous year, Natan Sharanksy of The Jewish Agency says the drumbeat of a looming war with Iran is having a significantly negative effect on the number of aliyah makers this year.

“For months now, we’ve had dozens of instances in which potential immigrants have been postponing their aliyah; people who had already finalised their aliyah plans informing us that they’re postponing their arrival by a number of months,” Sharansky told Israel Radio recently.

Sharansky, who was the first political prisoner let go by Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, in 1986, cited someone his agency worked with who had plans to make aliyah but told him “when the nuclear war in the Middle East passes, then we’ll come.”

Rhetoric from both the Iranian and Israeli sides have increased in recent weeks, including a flurry of Israeli media reports inferring a military conflict is on the horizon, and statements from numerous Iranian leaders calling for Israel’s destruction.

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Both Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister have said that time is running out for diplomacy with Iran, and that the international community must be prepared to accept this idea.

“The international community should announce the diplomatic process with Iran failure, today,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said recently. “It needs to be made clear that if they don’t halt their nuclear program all options will be on the table, and not just on Israel’s part.”

On August 6th in the Wall Street Journal, Israeli Ambassdor Michael Oren opined that Iran may decide to  “relinquish its nuclear dreams. But time is dwindling and, with each passing day, the lives of eight million Israelis grow increasingly imperiled. The window that opened 20 years ago is now almost shut.”

For his part, Sharansky said he disagreed with statements from Israeli leaders who have publicly advocated for military force against Iran and its nuclear infrastructure, arguing that they”crossed every red line”.

In the face of all this, 350 North American Jews arrived in Israel nearly 10 days ago to complete their aliyah.

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