JPPI presents report on global Jewish life

At cabinet meeting, experts discuss divestment campaign against Israel, state of European Jewry, US-Israel relations and Iran.

June 23, 2013 20:13
4 minute read.
US AMBASSADOR Dennis Ross presents JPPI’s findings at Hebrew University.

Dennis Ross. (photo credit: Daniel K. Eisenbud)

“The delegitimization issue is morphing into a significant challenge for Israel in Europe. A campaign of boycott has taken on a number of critical forms that are troubling.”

This was one of the findings of The Jewish People Policy Institute’s annual “Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People,” presented to the Israeli cabinet at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Sunday.

The annual findings were presented by the institute’s board co-chairmen, Stuart Eizenstat – the former US ambassador and deputy secretary of the Treasury – and Dennis Ross, the former US ambassador and special Middle East coordinator under former president Bill Clinton.

Eizenstat noted that in just the past two weeks, 14 foreign ministers from European countries signed a letter to the European Commission to boycott all products made in the West Bank, which he warned could “have a broader impact on multi-national companies investing in Israel.”

“We know that publicly listed Israeli companies are receiving divestment letters because their products or services are made in the West Bank,” he said.

Eizenstat emphasized that Israel must take “proactive measures” to change the damaging narrative that is leading companies to join the boycott campaign before it results in considerable economic damage.

“Israel needs to respond with alacrity to this before the campaign grows and becomes more troubling,” he said. “Take proactive actions to get carefully vetted Palestinian workers [jobs] – to ease movement in the West Bank. Israel must change the narrative in a coordinated effort to have a broad-based response.”

The assessment – which JPPI will also present to Jewish leaders internationally – also focused on developments in five key areas: geopolitics and its impact on the Jewish people; Israel- Diaspora relations; Jewish identity; Jewish demography; and Jewish economics.

Also participating in the briefing to the cabinet was former Independence Party MK Einat Wilf, a JPPI senior fellow and former chair of the Knesset subcommittee on Israel and Diaspora relations.

In terms of the Jewish community in Europe, Eizenstat said there are “troubling signs,” including growing anti-Semitism, increasing restrictions on circumcision and even laws against traditional Jewish burial.

“[These variables] are creating concern among European Jewry,” he said.

Eizenstat added that European Jews have three viable options if they choose to emigrate – Canada, the US and Israel – which he said presents Israel with a “unique opportunity” to encourage aliya.

“This is a unique opportunity for Israel to make clear that it is a viable option for European Jewry to live here,” he said, “a very attractive option for them to have a safe, economically stable life.”

With respect to US-Israel relations, Eizenstat noted the exponential population growth of Hispanic Americans who know “very little” about Israel’s geopolitical situation, and emphasized the need for Israel to effectively inform them about it.

“It’s incumbent for Israel to reach out to the growing Hispanic population to explain what is going on here,” he said. “To reach out to young emerging Hispanic-Americans, African- Americans and Asian-Americans and to bring them to Israel.”

While Ross noted the report’s finding of a “clear improvement” in US-Israel relations, he said how Israel deals with the Iranian nuclear threat, as well as Syria, may strengthen or weaken the harmony enjoyed between the nations.

“At some point, before diplomacy is exhausted, somehow in the coming year Israel has to decide [to] act on its own, or wait to see if the US will do it,” said Ross. “This is a very difficult issue that needs to be resolved.”

By acting alone militarily against Iran, Ross cautioned that Israel could jeopardize its good standing with the Obama administration.

“In the coming year there could be strains if the US is not acting on Iran or Syria,” he said.

“The overall thrust is that things have improved [between the US and Israel] – but there may be a challenge [to the relationship] in a year where Israel may have to move alone [militarily].”

Prior to the annual presentation, JPPI president Avinoam Bar-Yosef emphasized that Diaspora Jews – particularly in North America – are a strategic asset to Israel.

“Our special bonds are essential for future generations of Jews worldwide and place a great responsibility on the shoulders of Israel as the core state of the Jewish people,” he said.

“JPPI’s cabinet briefing is an opportunity to clarify for its ministers current trends impacting the Jewish people.”

Bar-Yosef emphasized the importance for Israelis to “invest” in their relationship with Diaspora Jews.

“It’s also critical that Israelis be more aware of how essential investment in and maintenance of the relationship between Israel and the rest of the Jewish world is for all of us,” he said.

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