- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Threat from within

In his new job, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States is trying to defuse a population time bomb that threatens to make Jews a minority in a land created as a homeland for them.

“I see the mission as ensuring the future of the state of Israel as a Jewish state,” Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said in a telephone interview yesterday from his home near Tel Aviv.

If birthrate trends remain unchanged, Israeli Arabs could outnumber Israeli Jews within 50 years, unless Israel attracts a major and steady influx of foreign Jews. The immigration of Jews to Israel is Mr. Ayalon’s responsibility as co-chairman of a nongovernmental organization called Nefesh B’Nefesh.

“I view Israel as the biblical, historical place of the Jewish people,” he said.

Israel is also a shelter for Jews.

“After the Holocaust, we learned that a people without a land is a people … not protected. With radical Islam, terrorism and the rise of anti-Semitism, Israel is more of a shelter [for Jews] than ever before.”

Mr. Ayalon, ambassador here from July 2002 until this past November, said he hopes to attract at least 10,000 immigrants a year through his organization, which will focus on Jews in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia because they are usually better educated and affluent and would bring with them the values of Western democratic traditions.

“Israel now is racked by scandal. Jews from North America bring a cleaner political climate,” he said.

Jews now account for 80 percent of Israel’s population of 7 million, Mr. Ayalon said. Arab Israelis make up 18 percent, but their fertility rate is 3.3 children per adult, while the Jewish fertility rate is 2.7, he said.

Nefesh B’Nefesh was founded in 2001 by Tony Gelbart, a Florida business executive and co-chairman, and Joshua Fass, a rabbi in Jerusalem who serves as secretary-general. It works closely with the Israeli government’s own immigration bureaus but offers different services.

Mr. Ayalon said Nefesh B’Nefesh facilitates immigration by helping Jews secure jobs, housing and educational placement for their children before they reach Israel.

“To uproot and leave it is the most difficult thing to do. We help smooth the transition and promote their absorption into Israel,” he said.

“We have a track record,” Mr. Ayalon said of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Our retention rate is 99 percent of more than 10,000 Jews who have come to Israel over the past five years.

“My job is to raise the profile.”

More information about the group is posted on its Web site, www.nbn.org.il.

Lebanon ‘for all’

The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon yesterday tried to blunt criticism from the extremist Hezbollah by insisting that Lebanese themselves settle the political crisis that threatens the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman said the United States is “not interested in imposing solutions,” according to reports from Beirut.

“We support peaceful dialogue among the Lebanese themselves,” he said. “We sincerely hope that the door is still open to Arab mediation that showed such promise in bringing the Lebanese together.”

Mr. Feltman added that an international donor conference scheduled to open in Paris tomorrow should benefit all Lebanese, whether they support Mr. Siniora or the pro-Syrian opposition.

The conference is “positive for all of Lebanon, not for any particular Lebanese group,” he said after meeting with Nabih Berri, the pro-Syrian speaker of parliament.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has accused Mr. Siniora of being a puppet of the United States.

“The aim [of the United States] is to strengthen the government of Fuad Siniora because in reality it is their government,” Agence France-Presse quoted the sheik as saying in an interview last week.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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