Israeli premier needlessly offended European Jews

February 19, 2015 11:59

Benjamin Netanyahu's call on Sunday for a "mass-immigration" is a direct extension of his personal belief that he is the "representative of the entire Jewish people".

That is how he described his role at an election event with French-speaking Likud members two weeks ago.

As ever with Mr Netanyahu, he perfectly combines his own self-perception with his political interests. And as always, this call for an exodus of Jews from Europe - even though it is backed up with a £30m programme to aid their absorption - reflects the lack of any clear Israeli policy on what should be a crucial national issue.

In recent years, official Israel has quietly acknowledged that the days of mass aliyah are over. Now that nearly all the Jews in the disapora live in the Western world and have no plans to move, the focus has shifted to improving ties with communities abroad.

The Jewish Agency is now much more involved in education and "community-building", and the Israeli government is funding the Birthright and MASA programmes which bring young Jews to Israel for anything from a ten-day trip to a year's scholarship. It is now also planning major Jewish teacher-training programmes.

He would not dream of upsetting US Jews

The call to European Jews is, of course, also highly selective as Mr Netanyahu, who spent much of his youth and young adulthood in the United States, is not issuing a similar call to American Jewry. His main donors and political supporters are in the US; he wouldn't dream of offending them by suggesting they should also move to Israel.

Jewish Agency officials and community leaders in France insist that the doubling of aliyah from the country last year had more to do with financial factors, such as high taxation, than the rise in antisemitism.

It is still unclear whether the rise in attacks on Jews is a passing blip or a the harbinger of a more ominous trend.

Either way, a mass exodus to Israel still seems unlikely. Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu, who did not bother to consult any European Jewish leaders before issuing his call, has needlessly offended these communities who believe the best way to respond to terror is by continuing to live proudly as Jews in their chosen homeland.

February 19, 2015 11:59

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