Int'l Jewish organizations, leaders: Don't give the Diaspora Ministry to Shas

It was reported by Israeli media that Shas is expected to receive the Diaspora Affairs Ministry in the coalition negotiations.

 Shas party head Aryeh Deri speaks to supporters as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, in Jerusalem. November 1, 2022.  (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
Shas party head Aryeh Deri speaks to supporters as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, in Jerusalem. November 1, 2022.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)

Jewish leaders and heads of Jewish organizations worldwide have begun a silent yet strategic campaign to dissuade the incoming government from giving the Diaspora Affairs Ministry to Shas, a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) party.

They have been working behind the scenes since Monday to pressure the Likud and party leaders of the incoming coalition to ensure that Shas does not receive the Diaspora Affairs portfolio. Shas is expected to receive the Diaspora Affairs Ministry in coalition negotiations, Israeli media outlets reported Monday.

Jewish leaders worldwide would prefer that any religious party other than a haredi one manage this ministry, a senior progressive Jewish figure in the World Zionist Congress told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“Even the Religious Zionist Party would be better for us,” the source said. “We would prefer the Religious Zionist Party since they are Zionistic and are more open-minded.”

Some of the concerned leaders are from religious-Zionist or Modern Orthodox communities abroad, mainly in North America.

“I can’t imagine how a Shas minister of Diaspora Affairs would be able to manage this delicate and strategic connection,” a leader of a large Modern Orthodox organization said Tuesday.

 Shas party head Aryeh Deri speaks to supporters as the results of the exit polls for the Israeli elections are announced, in Jerusalem. November 1, 2022. (credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90) Shas party head Aryeh Deri speaks to supporters as the results of the exit polls for the Israeli elections are announced, in Jerusalem. November 1, 2022. (credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)

Jewish organizations are worried

Many substantial donors of organizations, such as AIPAC, have said behind closed doors that they were extremely worried and have asked Israeli politicians to make their voices heard.

“Even though we’re not Israeli citizens, we hope [Prime Minister-designate Benjamin] Netanyahu will understand how important it is for this ministry to be run in a sensitive and open-minded way, or else it will be very difficult for us to defend Israel, which we’ll do anyway, if a minister speaks negatively about our constituents,” the leader of the large Modern Orthodox organization said.

A message that was sent to senior Likud officials by a Diaspora activist said: “I received a number of inquiries from Jews in the US, leaders of [Jewish] organizations, who are concerned that the Likud is offering Shas the Diaspora Affairs portfolio as part of the coalition negotiations. Large donors to AIPAC told me that they fear that it will be very difficult for them to defend the anti-liberal direction and attitudes towards women and minorities in Israel under the incoming democratic government.”

“It seems to me that under these conditions it is better for the Diaspora minister to be the one who can serve as a bridge between both of these communities,” the message read. “I know that Diaspora Jews are not really considered in Israeli politics, yet I want to convey these messages and the voices of those who love and care for Israel.”

Most of the large representative Jewish organizations in the Diaspora prefer that the ministry be run by the Likud, which is considered to be the most moderate of all of the coalition parties.

Other Diaspora activists were not as pessimistic.

“There are many Shas MKs who could make excellent Diaspora Affairs ministers,” one of them said, adding that “there are a few MKs in Shas who have been very active in Israel-Diaspora relations in the past years.”

Some of those who are happy with a possible Shas minister are Jewish communities that are mainly comprised of Sephardi Jews and Jews of North African descent, such as in France. Others include traditional Israelis abroad, as well as Sephardi communities in the US and Canada.