Nativ detractors 'breathe a sigh of relief'

Lieberman's resignation may signal the end of the Nativ organization's plans to expand into Germany.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
January 17, 2008 00:44
2 minute read.
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The resignation on Wednesday of Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman may signal the end of the Nativ organization's plans to expand into Germany, according to sources who oppose the expansion. Nativ, a government agency that began in the 1950s as a covert arm of the Prime Minister's Office operating behind Soviet lines in support of Jewish education and aliya, is now a small Diaspora educational service that operates under the aegis of Lieberman's likely-to-soon-be-dismantled ministry. From a network of hundreds of agents, with a pay scale to match that of the Mossad and stature as a primary target of KGB concern, Nativ has become a tiny organization of some 60 employees that runs Jewish education offices in FSU countries. In July, the government approved an NIS 8 million budget increase to allow the organization to begin working for the aliya of an estimated 200,000 FSU Jews living in Germany. While the proposed expansion was miniscule - just two Nativ emissaries would be placed on the ground in Germany, working alongside already-present Jewish Agency shlichim - the move garnered angry opposition from the Central Council of Jews in Germany (Zentralrat) and the social services-oriented Central Welfare Office of Jews in Germany (ZWST), the two government-recognized institutions that represent Jews to the German government. The Jewish Agency, too, has opposed Nativ's expansion. Agency officials have said Nativ was trying to remain relevant after its usefulness as a covert agency had dissipated with the downfall of the Soviet Union and the mass-emigration of Jews to Israel, the US and Germany. Nativ has yet to begin operating on the ground in Germany, and according to sources, the Jewish Agency has been stalling movement on the implementation of Nativ's expansion in the hope that coalition tensions would lead to Lieberman's resignation and the end of the initiative. The first major day-long meeting to discuss the details of Nativ's operations in Germany was held this Monday, and included Nativ officials, Jewish Agency dir.-gen. Moshe Vigdor and other agency officials, Zentralrat secretary-general Stephan Kramer and the social services organization ZWST's Benny Bloch. Now, with support at the political level apparently gone, sources within the Jewish Agency and the German organizations both sat they believe Nativ's expansion would be "frozen, and may be dead altogether." In response, a representative for Lieberman said he hoped the naysayers were wrong. "Not everything in this country has to be personal," he said, adding that encouraging Jewish identification among FSU Jews in Germany "is in the national interest." Meanwhile, he said, "everything that was agreed upon until now will continue." Nativ director Naomi Ben-Ami declined to be interviewed for this article.


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