Israel and the Diaspora need new agreement on their relationship - Shai

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai gave a speech at the conference that marks the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress.

 Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai gives a speech at the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress. (photo credit: DIASPORA AFFAIRS MINISTRY)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai gives a speech at the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress.
(photo credit: DIASPORA AFFAIRS MINISTRY)

BASEL - Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai called for a new agreement defining the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora to be signed during an event celebrating the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.

The Minister delivered a speech at the main plenary of the conference, in front of hundreds of participants and leaders from around the Jewish world.

"125 years ago, Theodor Herzl walked the streets of Basel and formulated his vision in this city," he said. Shai explained that Herzl turned to leaders and influential Jews all over the world to harness support for a task "that seemed impossible," establishing a state for the Jewish people.

"Without Diaspora Jewry, the State of Israel would probably not have been established," Shai said. "Today, 125 years after that pivotal congress, the paradigm has changed," Shai told the audience which was made up of Jews from around the world as well as Israeli leaders.

"The State of Israel is thriving and leading in many fields - and it is now time to ask what Israel can do to secure the destiny of the Jewish people and Jewish resilience around the world.”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai
 Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai gives a speech at the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress. (credit: DIASPORA AFFAIRS MINISTRY) Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai gives a speech at the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress. (credit: DIASPORA AFFAIRS MINISTRY)

The Minister called for a new agreement to be signed, defining the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora. Instead of the “Blaustein-Ben Gurion Agreement," there needs to be an understanding of a balance between involvement and non-interference, we should encourage more engagement and more involvement."

The Blaustein-Ben Gurion Agreement

In 1950, then Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion attended a luncheon in his honor in Jerusalem, where he exchanged remarks with Baltimore businessman and community leader Jacob Blaustein. The two signed a historic exchange, which attempted to establish a framework for Israel-diaspora relations, mainly the American Jewish community.  

“It is our duty, as a state, and as a government, to find ways to integrate the voices of world Jewry into the decision-making process within the State of Israel. Many of the decisions we make in Jerusalem affect not only the citizens of Israel but Jewish communities around the world alike.” 

The minister has worked persistently over the past year to find a mechanism that will allow the opinions of the Diaspora to be properly expressed. In his speech this evening he affirmed that he will continue working towards this goal. That said, he isn't expected to resume his role as minister in the next government.