The Jewish Agency Appears Marginalized in Aliyah

The Jerusalem Post has obtained a draft copy of the proposed new aliyah initiative. This according to a just published article in the paper. The draft appears to confirm a number of items previously published in the media, organizational denials non-withstanding, including:

  • The establishment of a new corporation to be owned jointly by the four “national institutions, ” Keren Hayesod, KKL-JNF, The Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization.
  • The initiative would initially be funded by a grant from KKL-JNF for 100 million shekel.

But the bombshell, now clearly spelled out by the JPost article, is: “Under the plan, the Ministry of Aliya and Immigrant Absorption would [have] four seats on an eight person steering committee that would oversee the new corporation. The Director General of the Ministry, as one of those four, would have the power to cast a second vote in the case of a deadlock within the committee, a source familiar with the matter told the Post.”

Those two sentences say it all: effective control of the initiative will belong to the Ministry thus formally ending The Jewish Agency’s exclusive dominance in dealing with aliyah.

In commenting on these developments, David Breakstone, vice chair of the World Zionist Organization and a member of The Jewish Agency’s board, told The Jerusalem Post, “Certainly there is an argument to be made that the Jewish Agency might have continued to be entrusted with the exclusively responsibility for bringing Jews to Israel, which has been its sacrosanct mission since its founding 85 years ago. The newly proposed paradigm, however, will allow for the allocation of greater resources and the harnessing of multiple energies in undertaking this sacred task, so vital to both the interests of the State of Israel and the fulfillment of the Zionist dream. We understand and are sympathetic to the concerns raised by our overseas leadership, but are convinced that ongoing negotiations, conducted in an atmosphere of good will and mutual respect, will result in understandings satisfactory to all the parties concerned.”

While “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” two conclusions can already be drawn:

1. The relationship between The Jewish Agency and the government HAS changed. Only time will tell if for the better.
2. The request by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to the Prime Minister to maintain the status quo has apparently not swayed the latter which raises many additional questions including JFNA’s level of influence at the highest levels of the Israeli government.

One can also assume that whatever else may have been on the agenda for the June 22nd Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting, aliyah and the relationship with the government will probably be the most discussed issue, regardless of where/how/if it shows on the published agenda.

And that in all likelihood, The Jewish Agency and the Ministry will play very nice together in public over the next few months. In fact, it might even be an Oscar-worthy performance. But don’t kid yourself, the public statements are for show. As we wrote previously, this is about politics, prestige and budgets. BIG budgets. And make no mistake about it, the Ministry is the clear winner – and relations between the two will continue to deteriorate.

The complete Jerusalem Post article “Structure of proposed aliya program confirmed to ‘Post’ in leaked document” can be found here.