A demonstrator steps on an Israeli flag during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a few days the 37th Zionist Congress will convene in Jerusalem.
Many fundamental questions are being asked among the Israeli public regarding the relevance and necessity of the National Institutions, which are fully or partially under the auspices of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), founded by Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl.
During the past few years The Jewish National Fund, the Settlement Division and others have been the objects of unflattering headlines. The other National Institutions – The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Hayesod and the WZO – maintain hundreds of programs in Israel and around the world which are usually less known to the public.
The justification for holding the Congress, attended by hundreds of delegates from Israel and all over the world, will be determined through its success in generating a process of fundamental transformation.
The Congress, which meets once every five years, is the largest Jewish Zionist organ in the Jewish world, and is the sovereign of all of the National Institutions.
The question is: should the National Institutions be abolished, and have the responsibility for the Jewish people be transferred to the government of Israel, as the government of the Jewish people, or should they be transformed so that they may remain relevant to the 21st-century reality, continuing to exist through joint authority of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad.
I hereby call upon you, without reservation, to form a Zionist movement based on the vision of Israel’s declaration of independence (or in the WZO’s language – “The Jerusalem Program”).
For even today, the Jewish people need institutions which are partnered with the government of Israel, the Knesset and Israeli society. The government of Israel cannot and should not be the sole authority of the Jewish people.
The restructuring and re-definition of the National Institutions must be accompanied by the definition of vision, objectives, structure and composition.
Their future focus must be on encouragement of aliya, strengthening the connection between Israel and the Diaspora – especially among the younger generations – Jewish-Zionist education and participating in the strengthening of Israel’s geographic and social periphery.
The role of the institutions such as the JNF, the Settlement Division and others will be revised accordingly. For example, all types of shlichut (emissaries) will be united under one authority, while the same goes for the various fundraising apparatus.
The combined annual budget of the National Institutions is between three to four billion shekels. The government of Israel covers a great portion of this budget. Therefore, the structure of the budget must be suited according to the restructuring of the institutions.
Furthermore, the Settlement Division must be an integral organ within the government, whereas the JNF should deal with settling Israel, in partnership with the Jewish world, alongside its traditional role in land development, foresting, reservoirs and Jewish-Zionist education.
These are suggested directions. This essential transformation must be backed by the prime minister, the president, the Knesset chairperson and the Jewish world. The reform will be led by public figures, the academic world and professionals.
I sincerely hope that this will be this coming Congress’s statement.
The Jewish Zionist movement should adopt the vision of two states for two nations as the solution to the Palestinian issue. By doing so, the Jewish people will strengthen and back the prime minister’s stance as he publicly displayed it once again in his recent speech at the UN.The author is deputy chairman of the executive, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and board member of the Meretz Party.