Economy Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at Jerusalem Conference.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The cabinet is set to approve Israel’s new multi-billion Shekel Diaspora initiative during an upcoming session following Passover, a government source with knowledge of the matter told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
First announced publicly last November, the World Jewry Joint Initiative is Israel’s new strategic plan for the Diaspora.
It will more than double current government spending on programs aimed at instilling Jewish identity among Diaspora Jews – to NIS 1 billion a year.
A collaboration between Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency, the undertaking will partner closely with Jewish communities abroad, which will be required to match Israel’s investment by a two-to-one margin.
In February Bennett told the Post
that the cabinet was slated to approve the budget, framework and objectives of the initiative in March. During an online town hall meeting on YouTube last week, Bennett pushed the date for government approval back further, saying that “over the next few months [we are] going to wrap this up and bring it to the Israeli government.”
Speaking with the Post on Monday, a government official close to the initiative announced that despite Bennett’s projected time frame, the government decision would actually come right after Passover.
It could even be brought before the ministerial forum “possibly as early as the cabinet meeting on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day,” he said.
While the specific programs and governance of the initiative are still being finalized, some details of the final form of the entity controlling the large budgets that will be associated with the WJJI were presented to the Post.
Cautioning that the issue of governance was still “fluid,” the source said that the structure of the body responsible for overseeing the initiative would look like the private corporation running Taglit-Birthright.
The corporation would be structured in such a way as to serve as a conduit for government funds. Oversight would be provided by a committee of director generals of relevant governmental bodies such as the Prime minister’s Office and the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, as well as representatives of Jewish communities abroad.
“It will have a small staff and be independent of the Jewish Agency and of the government,” the source said.
Alan Hoffmann, Jewish Agency director- general, has previously stated that the senior professional of the initiative would be Yael Weiss-Gadish, director of the agency’s Israel Experience & Aliyah Tracks unit.
A spokesman for the Jewish Federations of North America, a major partner of the initiative, told the Post that the information passed on to it “seems consistent with directions discussed in various consultations” but that “to our knowledge no decisions have yet been made.”
Bennett’s presentation of the initiative to the full cabinet comes after the “breakthrough” end of inter-ministerial negotiations between Diaspora affairs, the PMO and the Finance Ministry.
Several international content groups, comprised of Jewish leaders, academics and Israeli officials, presented several white papers containing programming suggestions to the Jewish Agency’s board of governors earlier this year.
Bennett is widely expected to present programming suggestions to the cabinet as well.
There are those who remain skeptical regarding the initiative, due to the paucity of information surrounding its content and form.
One member of the Jewish Agency’s board of governors told the Post: “To date there has been a sophisticated brainstorming session briefly presented to the board of governors. I would say that at this stage I have two areas of concern. The ideas are still in a very early stage and as such [it is] very difficult to see what practical plan might emerge, and secondly, there was little or no content with particular reference to the base of values uniting the Jewish people in and out of Israel.”