Israel Paid Ceausescu To Let Jews Emigrate

JERUSALEM - Deposed Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu received millions of dollars from Israel for letting hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews leave the country, according to Israeli officials and Ceausescu's one-time intelligence adviser.

The sources said Israel paid between $2,000 and $50,000 per exit visa, but on special occasions - depending on the person's profession or family status - fees reached $250,000.

Payments were deposited in secret bank accounts administered abroad by the Romanian foreign intelligence service but personally controlled by Ceausescu, according to the former intelligence adviser who claimed that, at one point, there was $400 million in one account.

Charging for permitting Romanian Jews to emigrate was only one of several secret accords and understandings Ceausescu had with Israel. Other deals included intelligence sharing and, more recently, apparent collaboration in persuading Iran to help free Israeli and other foreign captives in Iranian-influenced areas of Lebanon.

The Turkish Daily News reported Friday that Ceausescu was instrumental in arranging a secret deal between Israel and Iran under which Israel recently bought Iranian oil in exchange for Iranian help in releasing the hostages.

The newspaper also claimed that Ceausescu dealt with the issue on his visit to Tehran this month on the eve of the revolution in Romania.

An Israeli foreign ministry official denied that Ceausescu was ``mediating'' between Iran and Israel but declined comment on how Israel arranged to buy Iranian oil.

Revelations of an Israeli-Romanian connection, following startling reports during the Romanian uprising that Arab mercenaries fought alongside pro-Ceausescu security forces, suggest that the Romanian leader - executed Dec. 25 - did not let ideology interfere with potentially profitable business deals.

Following the bloody Romanian revolution, many of Ceausescu's closely held secrets are being aired as foreign governments that once had close links to Bucharest move to distance themselves from those connections.

In Jerusalem, Israel has publicly welcomed the advent of a new government in Bucharest, but some officials have privately voiced concerns that Ceausescu's overthrow might harm Israel's interests in Romania.

Those interests focus on immigration of Romanian Jews - 400,000 of whom are now living in Israel - and the transit of Soviet Jews traveling to Tel Aviv from Moscow.

Simcha Dinitz, director of the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental entity that administers the immigration of foreign Jews to Israel, said recently that the Romanian revolution had temporarily stranded 54 Soviet Jews in Bucharest.

Yesterday, a Jewish Agency official said Israel also paid the Romanian government for the transit of Soviet Jews, but she did not have details.

As for exit visas for Romanian Jews, the Jewish Agency official and a senior official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed published accounts that Israel had made payments to Romania.

``We have known this for quite a while, but the details had not attracted much attention before,'' the Jewish Agency official said.

Neither official, however, provided details.

Quoting reliable sources, the Hebrew-language Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot said in its weekend editions that - for years - Ceausescu received between $5,000 and $7,000 for every visa issued to a Romanian Jew, and that between $50 million and $60 million ended up in the Romanian's pocket.

Ceausescu's former intelligence adviser, Ion Pacepa, who defected to the West in 1987, wrote in a book published last year that the payments were higher - up to $50,000 per visa.

Yediot Aharonot said money for the payments was raised by various Jewish organizations abroad.

A substantial portion of the money Israel uses to finance Jewish immigration to Israel comes from foreign Jewish communities, mostly those in the United States.

Specific details of how Israel and foreign Jewish communities began making payments to Romania for allowing Romanian Jews to immigrate are contained in ``Red Horizons,'' the book written by Pacepa.

Pacepa wrote that the visas-for-cash deal began in the late 1950s.