‘Heard Around Jerusalem’ returns with some behind-the-scenes insights on the weeks ahead:
With both the Jewish Agency’s Board meeting and JPPI’s Conference on the Future of the Jewish People on next week’s agenda, influentials – including ‘wanna be’ ones – have slowly been arriving in our nation’s capital. The Jewish Agency, for the first time in recent history, will be meeting in Tel Aviv. And while several participants are planning an afternoon on the beach, or shopping/dining in historic Neve Tzedek, the meeting will pale in comparison to last October’s hugely successful gathering in Buenos Aires. The backdrop to both meetings will be the upcoming elections – in both Israel and the U.S. – along with last night’s unexpected announcement of the joining together of Likud and Yisrael Beytenu as a right-wing super bloc in January’s election.
Over at the WZO, there is some degree of celebration as their budget is up to $50 million, more than four times what it was when the historic governance split with the Jewish Agency was approved just a few short years ago. To be clear, while this increased budget benefits WZO, it does not come from fundraising but rather through a series of political deals, including with Yisrael Beytenu’s foreign minister empowering WZO to “do his bidding”. This morning, many at WZO are scrambling to understand what last night’s new political alliance announcement will mean to their financial coffers and patronage positions. And more than one organization is now hopeful that the next government will herald a change in which political party controls the Ministry of Absorption and the various absorption budgets here in Israel (note: this is of more than passing interest to the Jewish Agency, Nefesh B’Nefesh and most western olim organizations, among others).
Also in the background is the increased pounding on Israel’s South from the Gaza strip, bringing yet again, questions of Israel’s preparedness on the home front to the forefront. The Prime Minister is expected to seek cabinet approval on Sunday for several hundred million shekel to help fortify homes in close proximity to the strip. Related to this initiative, eJP has learned from a senior Jewish Agency source that the Agency is committed to providing 40m. NIS, implemented through their housing subsidiary Amigor, to assist in this endeavor. It should be noted that this amount is not from Agency general funds, but from special donations the organization has raised for the initiative.
Lastly, the Jewish Federations of North America announced yesterday “a series of communal conversations, designed to gather input from individuals and communities on the issues being considered” by the Global Planning Table (GPT). These smoke and mirror presentations, along with a commissioned (by JFNA) article on the GPT scheduled to be published in Haaretz immediately preceding the GA, are expected to show JFNA’s progress towards implementing this new level of bureaucracy on the communal landscape. At the same time, it should be noted that the Working Groups have yet to schedule one site visit, or even one meeting, in Israel – thus relying on JFNA’s professional staff to be the “filter” of what these decision recommenders hear.