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If Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have their way on Sunday, the funding of non-governmental aliya organizations Nefesh B'Nefesh and Ami will move from the Prime Minister's Office to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.
The move, to be presented for a vote by Edri and Olmert at Sunday's cabinet meeting, will be more than technical. Not only will the NIS 19 million the government currently spends on private aliya-promoting agencies move to Edri's ministry, it will also allow the ministry to better define criteria for the funding.
According to Ministry Director-General Erez Halfon, the ministry will use its new control over the aliya NGO budget to "expand the development budget for unique and attractive absorption programs for Western olim."
In the end, Edri hopes the move will allow the ministry to better help the private organizations, thus "meaningfully expanding the scope of aliya to Israel from Western countries, which have tremendous aliya potential," a ministry statement said.
According to the ministry, aliya from the affluent West should be encouraged not only for Zionist motives, but because it is an enormous boon to the Israeli economy. Because of their high level of education, work experience and employment rate - 90 percent of North American olim are working by the end of their first year in Israel - the average North American oleh produces $24,000 each year that are added to the Israeli economy, some 40% more than the average for all Israelis.