The Israeli government appealed today to the superpowers to deal substantively with the issue of emigration of Soviet Jews during their summit meeting in Geneva.
After a Cabinet meeting at which the issue was discussed, Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Soviet Jews "must realize that their fate stands at the center of our attention and at the top of our interest."
He said that whatever happens in Geneva, Israel will continue to work for the emigration of Soviet Jews through "quiet diplomacy."
The Cabinet said it is in the interests of both the Soviet Union and Israel to prevent emigrating Soviet Jews from going somewhere other than Israel, and that Israel is "prepared to act jointly with the Soviet Union in effecting direct lines" of transportation of emigrants.
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said, "We expect that before the major issues at the summit are resolved, the two political leaders of the world will make a decision -- a humanitarian decision that does not run counter to the interests of either of them -- to allow at least half a million Jews to leave soon from the Soviet Union and return to their historic homeland in the land of Israel."
Asked if Israel had received any indications that the Soviets were considering relaxing the emigration policy, Cabinet Secretary Yossi Beilin replied, "Not for the time being, but we are hoping that at the summit meeting something like this will be decided."
Only 124 Jews were allowed out of the Soviet Union last month, and senior Israeli officials have said that although the Kremlin has shown signs recently of searching for ways to redefine its relationship with Israel, it is unlikely that large numbers will be given exit visas soon.