Ross-led think tank recommends pan-Jewish strategizing body

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
December 17, 2006 00:27
3 minute read.

 
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The Jewish people should develop a long-term strategic planning mechanism to address the threats that endanger all Jews, according to recommendations to be submitted at Sunday's cabinet meeting. "The nature of the threats to the Jewish people put a premium on better planning," former US envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday. Ross is chairman of the board of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, a Jewish Agency think tank that will be presenting the recommendations to the cabinet in the framework of its third annual assessment of the state of the Jewish people. The presentation will focus on several "emerging trends," according to the text of the presentation obtained by the Post. These include the rise of Islamic terrorism and its widespread use of anti-Semitic themes; the danger to Israel and the Jewish world as a whole from an Iranian nuclear bomb; a shift of power toward emerging nations such as China and India; and worrying demographic trends within the Jewish people. For Ross, the issues are closely intertwined. "At a time when radical forces question Israel's right to exist - and this is tied to anti-Semitism - it's a reason to strengthen the Israel-Diaspora relationship," he said. "In light of the general decline of Jewish identity, these relations are especially important. "At a time when the majority of Jews live in Israel, the Diaspora is more influenced by what happens in Israel," he said. "We want the government of Israel to understand the impact of its actions on the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora." The presentation will include four central policy recommendations: strengthening pan-Jewish identity by setting a shared Jewish agenda; improving the demographic situation by encouraging conversion and childbirth; improving Israel-Diaspora relations through Israeli government policy and education; and the development of a mechanism to create a joint political strategy. The presentation noted the effect of the Lebanon war on world Jewry, specifically the different reactions the war elicited from European and American Jews. Both communities were shaken by the perception that the war was not won decisively, but European Jews, "living side-by-side with large minority communities of Muslims," felt the lack of an Israeli victory more powerfully, according to the presentation. American Jews, on the other hand, were surprised at what they perceived as Israeli military vulnerability. They also expressed concern over high-level calls for a more "balanced" approach to US policy in the Middle East, which would come at the expense of Israel. The report, authored by Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola, confirms that Israel has the largest Jewish community in the world. Totaling 5,309,000, Israeli Jewry consists of 40.6 percent of the world's estimated 13.1 million Jews, according to the report. According to DellaPergola, if present trends continue, Israel will have more than 50% of the world's Jews by 2030. The report also notes that 92% of Jews reside in the 20 countries ranked highest in the UN's Quality of Life Index, indicating that most Diaspora Jews no longer need to move to Israel for economic reasons. According to institute director Avinoam Bar-Yosef, the proposed strategic planning mechanism would bring together agencies such as the American Jewish Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, organizations capable of fielding "not just the hard power, but also the soft power, of the Jewish people" and which have already served as "de facto managers of a pan-Jewish foreign policy." A senior official in a major US Jewish organization told the Post that the idea seemed misguided. "The Jewish people have a history of creating bureaucracies that cannot easily be dismantled long after the Jewish community has outgrown the need for them," the official said. Ross, however, defended the proposal. "We don't need a new bureaucratic level," he said, but there was an urgent need for "better coordination."•

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