Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a radical rethink of policy in Israel-diaspora relations this week, warning that “a serious crisis” of assimilation and alienation faces world Jewry.
In the keynote speech to the Jewish Agency’s board of governors in Jerusalem, Mr Olmert acknowledged that “the era of mass aliyah from countries of distress has come to a close”.
The emphasis now, he said, should be on building a future in which Israel would act as a partner, rather than a beneficiary, of Jewish philanthropy. “The old paradigm of the diaspora as benefactor and Israel as beneficiary can no longer continue,” said Mr Olmert. He called for new joint educational and cultural initiatives, including every young Jew getting an opportunity to visit Israel for a period of university study.
Following his speech, a Jewish Agency-government coordinating committee voted to form a steering committee to create a blueprint for the new policy.
However, senior officials were privately less than enthusiastic, warning that the thinking behind the initiative was fuzzy, the costs were unlikely to be authorised by the Treasury, and the plan might dissolve if, as expected, Mr Olmert is forced to resign over allegations of corruption.
“The speech and the idea behind it are both wonderful,” said one official to the JC, “but it will take at least an extra 500m NIS [£77m] per year and I won’t believe that Olmert, in his current political situation, is capable of making the Treasury come up with the money.”