Danon to remain as head of Knesset Absorption c’tee

Wilf to chair panel on Diaspora relations in compromise over the chairmanship of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee.

MK Danny Danon 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
MK Danny Danon 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A battle between Likud MK Danny Danon and Independence faction head Einat Wilf over the chairmanship of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee was resolved last week with a creative compromise.
According to the coalition agreement, Wilf was supposed to chair the committee for the second third of the coalition’s tenure, and Danon for the third.
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After Danon received the committee chairmanship early because Wilf was on maternity leave, he thought it would be embarrassing to give it up for five months.
So Danon will continue to chair the committee and Wilf will head a new subcommittee on Diaspora relations for the rest of the tenure of the current Knesset.
The mission of the subcommittee, which will meet for the first time after Hanukka, will be to explore the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people.
Wilf’s associates said that for some 60 years, the Israel- Diaspora relationship was based on Israel being a small, needy state and Jews abroad contributing money but not being directly involved. They said the advent of globalization made that paradigm anachronistic.
“When Israel’s economy is doing so well, it’s no longer the case that Israel is needy,” Wilf said. “It’s time to reexamine the contract between Israel and the Jewish people, modernize it, and make it more effective in a way that reconnects world Jewry to Israel.”
Wilf wants to draw “a new contract between Israel and the Jewish people” in which Israel will give up the attitude that Jews abroad must either “make aliya and become a good Jew,” or “give money and feel guilty about not living in Israel.”
“The new contract is that rather than saying Israel must be the home of all Jewish people, we will say that Israel should be the first or second home of all Jews,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean buying expensive real estate in Jerusalem but a lifelong relationship with the country.”
She wants the committee to become a safe space for discussion about Israel, in which world Jewry can criticize Israel but “remain inside the tent.” The committee will use the Internet for video discussions with Jews abroad.
The committee will discuss not only “Jewish issues” but also “Israeli issues” that worldwide Jewry has a strong opinion on, such as the role of women in Israel. Wilf will also try to change the relationship with Israelis abroad, especially after a controversial Immigrant Absorption Ministry advertising campaign that she vigorously opposed.
Wilf wants Israel to organize an annual scientific conference in which Israelis abroad could present their work. She also would like to create a new kind of intensive language course that would be very different from current ulpans and more like a French course she once took at a spa on the Riviera.
“When I took that course, I thought, why can’t Hebrew be taught in the same way?” she said. “There should be Hebrew courses for two to four weeks on the beaches of Tel Aviv or the Galilee.”