Article Library / Structured Jewish World Dialogue

70 Years of Israel-Diaspora Relations: The Next Generation

Israel-Diaspora relations roadmap, 2018

In all of this year’s Dialogue discussions, participants were given a chart to review, with the aim of outlining principles and points of consensus on major issues that stand between Israel and the Diaspora. The discussions related to the chart were preceded by a brief review of the Ben-Gurion-Blaustein Agreement (dating from early 1950, it laid a groundwork for Israel-Diaspora relations), and participants were asked to update various sections of the agreement, in keeping with their understanding of 21st century realities.

For some groups the chart completion process was lengthy and meticulous, for others it was quicker. However, the entire array of conversations, and the insights raised during other portions of the discussion, together with the information obtained via the participant survey were sufficient to allow a basic framework for major principles of Israel-Diaspora relations to emerge, as understood by the Dialogue participants, and as formulated by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI). Naturally, such a framework cannot consistently reflect the specific positions of each individual participant or reader; rather, it addresses Israel-Diaspora relations more broadly. In our view, this framework does reflect a reasonable consensus shared by a substantial group of Jews who took part in the Dialogue and devoted thought and effort to the formulation of an appropriate model for relations. We recommend that the Israeli government, Israeli social organizations, and major Diaspora Jewish institutions look upon this framework as a roadmap for managing the relationship. In addition to the framing chart, we have included a short section detailing additional recommendations specifically directed toward Israeli and Diaspora leaders, based on the Dialogue discussions and on JPPI’s subsequent analysis.

 

 

 

Section Recommendations for Israeli Conduct and Objectives Recommendations for Diaspora Conduct and Objectives
Primary obligation Maintaining and developing a secure refuge for Jews, in a country that also provides cultural and moral inspiration to the entire Jewish world. Maintaining a thriving, vibrant Jewry that also plays a meaningful role in the relationship with Israel.
Mutual support Practical (political and economic) support for communities in distress or crisis; aspiring to participate in joint projects with Diaspora Jewry (including MASA programs). Support for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; backing for Israel vis-à-vis de-legitimization movements; economic and cultural investment in Israel’s development.
Policy-making involvement Honoring the decisions of Diaspora Jewish communities; allowing the communities to manage their own lives; taking them into consideration when formulating Israeli policy on issues of culture, religion, education and values; conducting dialogue on other policy issues as well, especially when they impact Diaspora communities. Helping to outline a policy direction for Israel on issues of culture, religion, education and values; honoring the rules of the democratic game as played in Israel; displaying appropriate caution with regard to major involvement on the political plane.
Dialogue Consulting with Jewish leaders on decisions having to do with culture or religion; displaying sensitivity to the views of Diaspora Jews when shaping Israeli policy as a whole; striving to influence the Jewish communities’ and organizations’ policies on Israel; maintaining respectful dialogue in cases of disagreement. Aspiring to dialogue with all parts of Israeli society; working within Israel to achieve educational and ideological objectives on which a broad consensus exists; holding constructive dialogue on highly controversial intra-Israeli issues; creating an alternative to the distancing discourse.
Political Loyalty Israel and Diaspora Jewry are in agreement that every Jew owes political allegiance to the country of his/her citizenship. The sense of connection, esteem and mutual responsibility shared by Israel and Diaspora Jewry are expressed on other planes.
Criticism Avoiding political criticism of Diaspora Jewry; avoiding and condemning insults directed at Diaspora Jews or expressions of arrogance toward them; defining the type of activity that Israel views as beyond the bounds of legitimate criticism. Participating in critical Israeli discourse on policy related to religion and state; being aware of, and attentive to, Israeli sensitivities in situations where Israel is subject to international criticism, and behaving accordingly; taking into account that public criticism may cause Israeli alienation from Diaspora Jewry.
Who is a Jew? Honoring Diaspora decisions about the identity of Diaspora Jewry; acting in Israel in a way that is respectful of the situation in the Diaspora, and striving to avoid rifts within the Jewish people. Striving, through dialogue and educational means, to ensure understanding of attitudinal gaps and their repercussions; when setting policy in the Diaspora, the potential implications for relations with Israel should be taken into account.
Jewish Pluralism Allowing the broadest possible range of Jewish expression and respecting different positions and streams; taking into account that policy pertaining to the various Jewish streams has a direct impact on relations, both among Jews in Israel and with the rest of world Jewry. Encouraging Jewish pluralism in Israel through social and educational means; fostering awareness of the attitudinal gaps between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, and honoring the composition and character of Israel’s Jewish population.
Aliyah Encouraging Aliyah, but refraining from delegitimizing Diaspora life. Agreeing that Aliyah is an important Zionist-Jewish value, even if it is not the sole aspiration.
Law of Return Uphold the Law of Return; do not change it without a frank and thoroughgoing process of consultation with Diaspora Jewry. The Law of Return has significant implications in terms of entry to Israel; accordingly, its provisions are determined by Israel.
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