MKs ask Knesset speaker Levy to force formation of Diaspora Committee

“The Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs is essential to ensure Israel’s ties with Jewish communities around the world and welfare of our Jewish brothers and sisters."

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy. August 4, 2021. (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy. August 4, 2021.
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)

The coalition’s representatives on the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs pleaded with Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy in a letter on Tuesday to intervene to enable the committee’s formation.

The MKs wrote that the current Knesset was sworn in on April 6. But the committee has still not been formed, because it is set to be chaired by an MK from the opposition, and the opposition is boycotting Knesset committees.

They said the committee’s inactivity hit hardest when Israel was closed to Diaspora Jews who begged to enter the country.

The MKs asked Levy at least to appoint a temporary chairman so the committee could start its work after not functioning since the last Knesset was dissolved in December 2020.

“Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and immigration and absorption are the bedrock of Zionism,” the MKs wrote. “It cannot be that due to one dispute or another between the coalition and the opposition, immigrants and Diaspora Jews will be sent a message that they are not a priority of the Knesset.”

 Knesset member Yomtob Chai Kalfon speaks at the Plenum Hall at the Knesset, on Noam Revkin Fenton.  (credit: NOAM REVKIN/FLASH90) Knesset member Yomtob Chai Kalfon speaks at the Plenum Hall at the Knesset, on Noam Revkin Fenton. (credit: NOAM REVKIN/FLASH90)

The letter was sent by MK Yomtob Kalfon and signed by MKs Alon Tal (Blue and White), Tatiana Mazarsky (Yesh Atid), Gaby Lasky (Meretz) and Evgeny Sova (Yisrael Beytenu).

Another letter with the same demand was sent simultaneously by the Center for Judaism and State Policy from the Hartman Institute and the Triguboff Institute to coalition chair MK Idit Silman (Yamina), and to opposition MK Yariv Levin (Likud).

"We know this is the result of a political struggle between the coalition and the opposition that includes a dispute over the composition of the committees and their division into various factions. We are not interested in getting into a political debate between the various camps," writes Tani Frank, Director of the Center for Judaism and State Policy at the Shalom Hartman Institute and Triguboff Institute.

"At the same time, we wish to express our objection and call on both parties to reach an agreement and establish the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee as soon as possible," Frank concluded.

Levy responded by blaming the opposition. He did not commit to taking steps to fix the problem.

“The Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs is essential to ensuring Israel’s ties with Jewish communities around the world and the welfare of our Jewish brothers and sisters who left their homes behind, to make Israel their new home,” Levy said.

“As part of my constant attempts to mediate between the coalition and opposition, the chair of the committee was offered to the opposition which unfortunately remains stubborn in its attempt to paralyze the Knesset and its committees.

Nevertheless, the Knesset is working at full steam, I urge the opposition to join the Knesset’s fruitful activity and think about our fellow Jewish communities around the world and new olim who decided to fulfil their Zionist dream.”

Kalfon responded that he thanked Levy for his strong words on the importance of establishing the committee as soon as possible and his call to the opposition to cooperate with the coalition on the issue.

“That being said, considering the opposition refuses to accept responsibility and constantly prevents us from forming the committee, it is the job of the Knesset, the MKs and the speaker, to find an alternative solution, even a temporary one such as the appointment of a temporary chairman,” Kalfon said.

“The needs of the olim and Diaspora Jewry cannot wait, and I will not stand silently until a solution is found and the committee is established.”

Yamina’s director of English operations and special adviser for legislative affairs Jeremy Saltan went further.

“The speaker is correct in his statement that the blame and the shame is on the opposition,” he said. “I am disgusted with their behavior. It turns my stomach. What the olim and diaspora Jews need desperately is action. Words are simply not enough. It is on us in the coalition to step up to the plate and deliver. We can’t wait. We must form the committee now.”

Yad L’Olim’s head, former MK Dov Lipman revealed that he has been trying to convince Likud leaders to break their committee ban for the sake of the Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee.

“Once I saw that they were refusing to do so I changed strategies and began working with coalition MKs to create a group that would demand the committee back for the coalition to get it started,” Lipman said. “I am thankful that MKs Kalfon and Mazarski heard my call and sent this letter to the Speaker.  We are tired of hearing about how important olim and global Jewry are to the Knesset. It’s time for action, not words.

The speaker must name a temporary chairman for the committee from the coalition and the opposition is welcome to take it back when they are ready to actually run the committee and show that they actually care about olim and global Jewry in action and not in words.”