The War against De-legitimization
It is recommended that the Government adopt and implement a comprehensive strategy for the war against the international phenomenon of de-legitimization of Israel, in the spirit of the plan that was developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and of the recommendations made by the Jewish People Policy Institute. The Government should allocate funding at the level required to strengthen the tools and frameworks necessary for the plan’s implementation, and in order to enhance inter-ministry cooperation, with an emphasis on the Foreign Ministry while involving Diaspora organizations in its execution.
The threat of de-legitimization is of strategic significance for Israel – one that is no less serious than the physical threats the country faces – and human and budgetary resources should be invested accordingly in response to it. Given the severity of the threat, and in comparison to the readiness in the face of other threats, it is important to strengthen the effort and to allocate the funding necessary to do so.
About a year ago, during the presentation of JPPI’s Annual Assessment, the Government resolved to assign primary responsibility for handling the phenomenon to the Minister for Strategic Affairs, and his ministry established a dedicated staff and developed a strategic action plan consistent with the conclusions of JPPI’s de-legitimization project.
According to these conclusions and plans, the effort at this stage should concentrate – with Foreign Ministry involvement – on certain Western European countries that constitute a dangerous international incubator for the phenomenon and whose governments even provide, directly or indirectly, millions of dollars in funding de-legitimization organizations. This funding helps to bring the phenomenon to other countries, including the United States; at the same time, ties should be expanded with non-Western international actors who are not tainted by classic anti-Semitism (China, India, and Japan); a focused campaign should be waged using sophisticated tools (not necessarily those of the government), including media and legal means, in order to expose the de-legitimizers’ true intentions and to place the main perpetrators on the defensive; Israel’s “other face” should be presented to international public opinion; and significant international networks should be developed for the war against de-legitimization that include non-Jewish and liberal players while also running a campaign in the cyber arena.
In light of the above, the budget necessary for these activities should be increased substantially.
The Non-Orthodox Streams
JPPI recommends that the State of Israel enhance the status, the role, and the level of official participation of the non-Orthodox Jewish streams (including secular streams) in the religious life of the state, in order to strengthen and underscore its pluralistic, inclusive character. At the same time, initiatives must take into account existing Israeli perspectives and institutions that provide religion with a public role, and to involve them in the proposals brought up for discussion.
The Orthodox rabbinate’s monopoly on matters relating to ritual and personal status are an impediment to Diaspora communities’ identification with the State of Israel, an impediment whose severity has been intensifying in recent years. In order to enhance the Diaspora’s identification with Israel, this monopoly should be ended. At the same time, it should be recognized that religion is part of the Jewish national collective identity (as it is in other nation states), and many in Israel and overseas – not all of whom are necessarily religious – consider public and state religious expression as part of the State of Israel’s Jewish character.
Increasing Aliyah from Europe
JPPI recommends that an administration be established within the Prime Minister’s Office that will be responsible for advancing Aliyah from Western Europe in general and from France and Belgium in particular. The administration will focus the efforts of the various national and government bodies charged with Aliyah promotion, the Aliyah process, and immigrant absorption. It will deal with coordinating and managing all matters related to the Western European Aliyah continuum under a single integrated umbrella, with a single information system and a computerized information-management system, and by redefining the Aliyah and absorption continuum.
Intensive efforts are required in the two main areas that constitute key impediments to tens of thousands who have expressed great interest in making Aliyah to Israel and/or in migrating in general:
A committee should be established immediately and charged with the removal of impediments and with increasing the pace of Aliyah from France and Belgium. It will deal, among other things, with matters related to education, military service and ties to the IDF, academic and student affairs, employment, professional licensing and recognition of professional degrees, promoting the relocation of businesses, and investments. The committee’s membership should include the directors general of the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the World Zionist Organization, and should be chaired by the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Actions should be taken to promote Aliyah through cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization and to provide information in every possible way, including through active marketing to increase and renew programs to expose various target audiences to Israel, and through activities in smaller and more distant communities.
Although there has been a consistent increase in the number of immigrants (olim) arriving from France over the past 15 months, it still falls far short of the potential given the new reality in Europe. It is likely that focused efforts to provide solutions for the tens of thousands of Jews who have expressed interest in making Aliyah immediately will lead to the development of a dynamic of mass Aliyah of tens of thousands, or even more, from France.
Various indicators point to push factors leading to an increase in Jewish migration from France and Belgium to other countries. Along with the economic recession and the growing strength of the extreme right in Europe, and pull factors related to Israel’s stable economy, another element has recently been added: the fear for the safety of European Jews in light of the expected return home of hundreds of European jihadist fighters trained in Syria and Iraq.
For a variety of reasons, most of which can be mitigated, Israel is not necessarily the preferred destination of these migrants. Turning the wave of emigration from France and Belgium into Aliyah to Israel requires targeted and focused action in cooperation with the relevant communities.
The French Jewish community is the largest in Western Europe, and for a variety of reasons it is also the community ripest for emigration. Various surveys indicate that an overwhelming majority of Jews do not have faith in the French government’s ability to defend their institutions and are considering emigration. Therefore, this community has been selected as the focus of a pilot initiative of cooperation between government ministries and the national organizations.