Are French millionaires really flocking to Israel? There are reasons to be skeptical
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Are French millionaires really flocking to Israel? There are reasons to be skeptical

A new report indicates, implausibly, 2,500 extremely wealthy French emigrants headed to Israel in 2015, and that more than 10 of the 31,013 new immigrants last year were millionaires

People gather to show solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, Nov. 14, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images, via JTA)
People gather to show solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, Nov. 14, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images, via JTA)

JTA — France’s Jewish millionaires are flocking to Israel by the thousands, according to new data on offer by a consultancy that tracks the world’s wealthy.

The report on international millionaire migration published Thursday by New World Wealth says 10,000 millionaires left France in 2015. Andrew Amolis, the firm’s head of research, told Newsweek that 20-25 percent of these French emigrants were Israel-bound Jews. That would mean up to 2,500 French millionaires immigrated to Israel last year.

“The large outflow of millionaires from France is notable — France is being heavily impacted by rising religious tensions between Christians and Muslims, especially in urban areas,” the report says.

Such an exodus of Jews with money would be good news for Israel — at France’s expense, of course. France has seen rising emigration thanks to financial stagnation and high taxes, with anti-Semitic violence helping Jews find the door. But New World Wealth’s estimates are hard to reconcile with what is known about French Jews and aliyah, or Jewish immigration to Israel.

Andrew Amolis (CBS screenshot)
Andrew Amolis (CBS screenshot)

Millionaire migration in 2015″ is the third annual report of its kind by the Britain- and South Africa-based firm. The 8-page document defines millionaires as “individuals with net assets of $1 million or more excluding their primary residences.” The term immigration is not defined.

Amolis was not immediately reachable to answer questions.

Of the 7,900 French Jews who immigrated to Israel last year, 15 percent were from poor areas with large Muslim populations, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel. Those immigrants were unlikely to be millionaires. If the New World Wealth report is correct, then, nearly one in three people from the remaining 6,700 French immigrants were millionaires.

Having mingled with French immigrants to Israel at aliyah fairs, as well as in their homes and synagogues in France and in Israel, I didn’t get the impression many of them were particularly well off.

The notion that a couple of thousand or more French millionaires relocated to Israel last year sounds overblown to Avi Zana, director of the nonprofit Ami Israel, who has worked for the past 20 years to help French immigrants integrate into Israeli society.

Newly-arrived French Jewish immigrants are briefed upon their arrival at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, June 29, 2015. (Zed Films)
Newly-arrived French Jewish immigrants are briefed upon their arrival at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, June 29, 2015. (Zed Films)

“Yes, there is a growth in the number of wealthy people coming to Israel,” he said. “High taxes in France and a stagnant economy have sent some wealthy people to the Jewish state, but to speak about this movement in the thousands or even high hundreds — that seems highly exaggerated to me.”

Beyond just France, the New World Wealth report said that 4,000 millionaires moved to Israel last year from around the world — growing the country’s millionaire population by 6 percent to 71,700. (Another estimate by Credit Suisse found 88,231 millionaires in Israel in 2015.)

In the report’s ranking of countries by millionaire inflow, Israel came in fourth — after Australia, the United States and Canada, in that order. The United Arab Emirates and New Zealand were Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. About half of Israel’s new millionaires in 2015 settled in Tel Aviv, according to the report.

But looking again at official aliyah statistics, that would mean that more than 10 percent of the 31,013 new immigrants to Israel were millionaires — though just 13,000 immigrants came from wealthy countries in Western Europe and North America.

Total aliyah increased 10 percent from 2014, after more than doubling the year before. For the second straight year, France was the largest single provider of immigrants to Israel in 2015.

The most dramatic increase in aliyah, though, was from Russia, where 6,600 immigrants left compared to 4,900 the previous year, amid a financial crisis that halved the ruble’s worth against the dollar in just one year and mounting concern over President Vladimir Putin’s nondemocratic policies.

Another 7,000 newcomers came from Ukraine, which is also experiencing a financial crisis following a bloody revolution that has led to regime change and secession by pro-Russian separatists in two eastern provinces.

The New World Report says its estimates are rounded to whole thousands. The cited sources are an in-house database, statistics on investor visas (which in Israel are not necessary for Frenchmen or commonly sought in general) and interviews with experts.

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