Economy Minister Naftali Bennett at Conference of Presidents Mission in Jerusalem, February 17, 2013.
(photo credit: COURTESY JEWISH FEDERATIONS OF NORTH AMERICA)
Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett held a live Q&A session on YouTube Wednesday evening, answering queries on the peace process and the government’s World Jewry Joint Initiative.
Fewer than 70 people viewed the live stream, which Bennett plans will be the first of a series of public online forums.
“I hope we will do this on a regular basis,” he said.
The minister treaded familiar territory, repeating talking points regarding Israel’s evolving relationship with world Jewry, including a shift away from viewing Jewish communities abroad as merely a source of donations and immigrants.
Israel acknowledges that it cannot end the Diaspora, Bennett said, and he realizes that “not all Jews are going to come and live in Israel.”
In November, the government unveiled its strategic plan for the Diaspora, known as the World Jewry Joint Initiative, a collaboration between Bennett’s ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency to increase state spending on Jewish identity programs abroad by hundreds of millions of shekels annually.
During an interview with The Jerusalem Post in February, he said that the cabinet was slated to approve the budget, framework and objectives of the initiative in March.
Responding to a query by the Post during his YouTube Q&A, Bennett indicated that it will be some time before the initiative is approved.
“We’re over the next few months going to wrap this up and bring it to the Israeli government,” he said.
The government and the Jewish Agency held an online “jam session” in February to solicit public feedback on programming concepts for the initiative advanced by committees composed of government officials and Diaspora community leaders. A delayed presentation to the cabinet may indicate that Bennett’s office reevaluated some of the programs.
Bennett said that he would speak to Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver to see, as one commenter requested, if Israel could “extend oleh [immigrant] rights for people that made aliya and weren’t in a position to use them at the time.”
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