New diaspora minister freezes Israel-US Jewish relations venture

The Association for Economic and Social Studies is intended to promote the cooperation of Israeli and North American Jews according to their professions.

 MK AMICHAI CHIKLI attends the House Committee meeting in the Knesset last week at which he was declared a defector. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
MK AMICHAI CHIKLI attends the House Committee meeting in the Knesset last week at which he was declared a defector.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli has made his first decision as minister: Freezing a NIS 5 million investment in a joint venture with an organization that he claimed is “political.”

Chikli tweeted on Saturday that “about a week after the elections, the Diaspora Ministry approved an engagement agreement with a political organization, without a tender, at a cost of millions of shekels. My first directive in the position was to immediately stop this terrible decision that is opposite to minimum standards of professional ethics.”

The organization is the Social-Economic Academy which is supported by the Berl Katznelson Foundation, which promotes distinctly left-wing economic policies and is close to Labor Party circles

"The Social-Economic Academy is in no way a subsidiary association of the Berl Katznelson Foundation,” the Berl Katznelson said in response. “The foundation financially supports the association, as do several other foundations.”

The initiative promoted by the ministry and the Social-Economic Academy is intended to promote the cooperation of Israeli and North American Jews according to their professions in order to create more awareness of the existence of diaspora Jews, in addition to long-lasting relationships. This initiative was promoted by outgoing minister Nachman Shai of the Labor Party.

 DIASPORA AFFAIRS Minister Nachman Shai attends a meeting of the Jewish People’s Lobby, in the Knesset.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) DIASPORA AFFAIRS Minister Nachman Shai attends a meeting of the Jewish People’s Lobby, in the Knesset. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Shai reacts to the freezing

"Contrary to the reports, all engagements made by the Diaspora Affairs Ministery during my tenure, were made according to professional standards with the approval of the authorized officials in the ministry, as well as the Finance and Justice Ministries," outgoing minister Nachman Shai tweeted. He added that all projects were intended to "promote the ministry's goals. I stand behind every single project."

"I stand behind every single project."

Nachman Ash

According to the official documents, there is no organization, in Israel or in the Diaspora, that can or wants to take on such a project, except for the Social-Economic Academy, despite the fact that the Diaspora Affairs Ministry confirmed that the association has no previous experience in managing similar projects, and that more than half of the costs of the project.

According to Channel 14 news, one of the tracks offered in the program is "Leadership research in the fields of justice and gender equality". According to the ministry, women around the world who lead struggles for gender equality "see Israel as a symbol of injustice", and therefore were interested in promoting this venture.

Chikli was sworn in as minister on Thursday and will participate in a ceremony with outgoing minister Shai on Monday.

Sources close to Chikli told The Jerusalem Post that there are other projects that they are considering the legitimacy of their funding because of their affiliation. During the weekend it was exposed that the religious parties demanded that the new government cancel the Jewish Renewal Venture in the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to ignore this request.