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Lukewarm reception for vast new Jewish Agency fund

    A multi-million-dollar Jewish Agency initiative aimed at reinforcing Israel’s ties with the diaspora has got off to a mixed start.

    The programme, which is expected to achieve an annual budget of $300 million, has been dubbed “The Prime Minister’s Initiative” by Agency officials.

    However, according to Israeli media reports, it is uncertain whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is personally backing it. In a lukewarm statement, his office is quoted as saying: “At the present, various ways are being examined to bolster the ties between Israel and the diaspora community”.

    In addition, a project planning meeting due to be held next month for Agency officials, Israeli government representatives and Jewish donors in Jerusalem has been postponed.

    However, Misha Galperin, the Jewish Agency’s US-based fundraising chief, has said he hopes some cash will be ready to begin the programme by 2014.

    The initiative will focus on upgrading Israel education through the training of 2,000 local educators, providing trips to Israel for young people, strengthening Israeli engagement with Jewish students on campuses and encouraging aliyah.

    The Agency envisages that the Israeli government will provide a third of the funding. The cost of the initiative to the Israeli taxpayer has attracted some criticism in Israel, especially from opponents of the government.

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