High time to close down our National Institutions

Stella Korin-Lieber

The Jewish Agency, WZO, JNF and Keren Hayesod are superfluous - except as providers of jobs, travel and high salaries to political cronies.

It is 70 years since Israel was founded, and this is the right to time to bid a very respectful and appreciative farewell to the "national institutions" that have brought us to this point, but which fortunately now appear superfluous. The four dinosaurs that have survived and live in historic symbiosis are the World Zionist Organization (WZO), the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod - the United Israel Appeal, and the Jewish National Fund (JNF). If they are not closed down, they should at least be quickly consolidated into a single body - one that will know exactly what it is doing and will be managed efficiently.

These institutions are intertwined, and it is not always clear where one ends and the next begins. Each of the four has representatives in the others. Their declared goal was achieved a long time ago, and since then, they have been inventing new words and creating unnecessary and redundant functions. They act like a state within a state, and their budgets are funded primarily from donations and government ministries and organizations. Their expenses are very high. They send professional whiners around the world, and in the good old shtetl tradition, they talk about how poorly off people are and beg money. Note: For many years, most of the money donated by Jews overseas has been kept in the donor countries for the Jewish communities' own use. Only a small fraction is sent to Israel.

The "national institutions" survive as inexhaustible sources of jobs replete with prestige, travel, comfortable salaries, and direct personal access to wealthy businesspeople around the world (which is likely to prove useful in future business careers in Israel). Those who manage to gain access to this fleshpot in a job or what is called being an emissary are mainly wheeler-dealers and over-the-hill politicians from all of the Jewish political parties with Knesset representation, or those that party leaders wish to get rid of by tempting them, or all sorts of people who have lost their political stature, but who once did unusual favors for those leaders.

Note: The more assertive and cunning a politician and his party are, they more they are able to exploit the appointments infrastructure in the national institutions, regardless of whether they are in the coalition or the opposition.

In addition to the Israeli leaders and senior officeholders, non-Israeli Jews are also active in the national institutions - usually community leaders or wealthy people who want to be involved with and connected to Israeli politics, and no less than that to politics in the countries where they reside, for social, business, and sometimes even Jewish patriotic reasons. The political interests and agenda of the foreigners, Israelis, and the politicians who fund them differ, but all are united in seeking to preserve these institutions, and control of all their budgets.

After these organizations became superfluous, they adopted new purposes, such as narrowing social gaps, afforestation, aiding victims of terrorism, aid to youth at risk, combating anti-Semitism, and so forth. Are they really successful in doing this, or is it just an excuse to perpetuate themselves and collect donations?

On a good day, thousands of people circulating in Israel and overseas are paid well as representatives, employees, emissaries, officials, and guides from the potpourri of organizations and their branches. In a good year, several billion shekels go from here to there. For example, in 2017, the JNF got NIS 2.6 billion from the state and gave the World Zionist Organization NIS 108 million and several million more shekels to the Jewish Agency for "reimbursement of expenses in maintaining the national institutions, security for overseas JNF emissaries, and paying for an auditor for the national institutions."

Besides this assortment of personal and political interests, Israel, a gray-haired 70 year-old country, already has a Knesset, a government, ministers, even a Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and even a Ministry of Immigration and Absorption. The most ridiculous thing is that the same government, the same party leaders arranging permanent or temporary jobs for themselves and their friends in these unnecessary institutions have also simultaneously also set up, fostered and financed parallel agencies for purposes of immigration, welfare, public relations and absorption, thereby rendering the institutions even more unnecessary.

For example, the organization Nativ, which arose in the 1950s as a secret agency for nurturing ties then regarded as dangerous with Jews in the closed society of the Soviet Union, over the years became an open, ponderous, and unnecessary organization supposedly designed for the Jews of these countries, but which is actually a source of appointments for speakers of Russian and other languages of the former Soviet Union countries at the unnecessary cost of NIS 80 million a year.

In the Western hemisphere, the NefeshB'Nefesh organization, registered as a private non-profit organization, was founded, in order to "rejuvenate immigration to Israel." Its appointments are also associated with the party leaders. To this organization is reserved the exclusive right and privilege of working with Jews from the US, who have been hermetically sealed off from the "national institutions'" immigration and absorption activity. There are also Jewish federations throughout the world, and also their roof organization, and also a union of Jewish communities. Also active are "The Israeli Experience," one of the Jewish Agency's units; the "Masa Israel Journey" project, founded 14 years ago at the state's initiative, which enlisted the Jewish Agency, for prestige purposes only, in bringing young Jewish students to Israel on an educational trip. Masa is currently in a perilous state. Who will save it? We shall see. Opposite it stands the active and ever-stronger independent veteran Taglit project in partnership with and under the supervision of Jewish community donors and the government, which brings young Jews to Israel to get acquainted with the country.

There is also the Naale organization for youth immigrating to Israel before their parents, and Qualita for immigrants from France, councils of immigrant organizations, and so on and so forth. And all that does not include immigrants from Ethiopia, whom the state indifferently leaves to the guidance of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) extremists, including from the US. This is only a partial list of the dozens, possibly hundreds, of organizations that have sprung up in parallel to the national institutions, which have lost their purpose as they have grown in size.

Jewish immigration to Israel is supposed the very essence of the national institutions. The Central Bureau of Statistics reports that 26,000 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2016. According to the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, in 2017 there were 11,500 by July of that year, more than half of them from Russia and Ukraine, less than a quarter from France, and a tenth from the US. We rejoice in these numbers of course, but do we really need these many ponderous organizations when the state can do all of the work?

World Zionist Organization

The World Zionist Organization was founded in 1897 by Binyamin Ze'ev (Theodore) Herzl and the First Zionist Congress in Basel, and served as a Jewish quasi-government until the state was established. In recent decades, it has been calling itself an agency "to encourage immigration" and "too deepen the link between Israel and the Diaspora."

What does the World Zionist Organization do? Here is the World Zionist Organization's answer: "The 2004 Jerusalem Program, as defined by the 34th Zionist General Council, reflects the fundamentals of Zionism, which are the vision for the work plan. The unity of the Jewish people, its bond to its historic homeland … Aliyah to Israel from all countries and the effective integration of all immigrants … Strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state … Ensuring the future and the distinctiveness of the Jewish people… Nurturing mutual Jewish responsibility… Settling the country… Combatting anti-Semitism."

200 employees in Israel (including the settlement division)

54 day workers

20 emissaries

The Jewish Agency

The Jewish Agency was founded in 1929 under the League of Nations mandate in order to advise the UK government on establishing a national home for the Jewish people. During the Mandate period, it represented the Jewish community. Even then there was already redundancy with the World Zionist Organization, caused, then as now, mostly by conflicts of ego, prestige, and politics.

The Jewish Agency according to the Jewish Agency: "The Jewish Agency focuses on connecting the Diaspora to Israel and creating a bridge between Israel and the Diaspora," "encouraging Jews all over the world to deepen their ties with their people, heritage, and land, and leading them to build a prosperous future for the Jewish people and the state of Israel."

The politicians, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been searching for someone to replace former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky this summer. Sharansky, who founded the Yisrael BaAliyah Party before joining the Likud, served as an MK and minister, and chaired the Jewish Agency for nine years. The names mentioned as candidates include Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz, Isaac Herzog, Nachman Shai, Danny Danon, Ron Dermer, and Ron Prosor.

A $344,253 budget for activity in 2018

855 tenured employees

295 temporary employees

384 overseas emissaries and representatives

140 (!) sub-units

Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal

Keren Hayesod was founded in 1920 at the annual conference of the World Zionist Organization in London in order to serve as its arm for raising and managing funds, rescue, immigration, and funding the establishment, building and strengthening of the Jewish communities in the land of Israel. Today, it calls itself a community interest company.

Keren Hayesod according to Keren Hayesod: "constitutes a bridge between tens of thousands of donors from around the world to activity benefiting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis and strengthening the connection of Diaspora Jewry with Israel." Its main activity is "raising donations throughout the world, except for the US and Israel."

The World Zionist Organization is the parent body of Keren Hayesod, and supplies 50% of its board of governors. The Jewish Agency is the primary beneficiary of Keren Hayesod, which has the right to appoint 20% of the Jewish Agency's board of governors and management.

The chairperson of Keren Hayesod is Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg, former leader of the Tzomet Party's youth movement, followed by the Likud-Gesher-Tzomet alliance, after which he founded the Israel in the Center Party, joined Shinui, founded the National Home Party, and merged with the Likud. He was deputy speaker of the Knesset, deputy minister of education, and minister of national infrastructures for a few months. He is in effect the chief fund raiser, but at the same time, at his request, was employed in only a 70% position, and used his remaining time for private and other business. Last September, he was arrested on suspicion of involvement in bribery in the submarines affair.

Keren Hayesod revenue in 2017: $160 million

Expenses in 2017: $22.2 million

78 employees in Israel

70 part-time or temporary employees

31 emissaries operating overseas

Jewish National Fund

JNF was founded in 1901 in order to collect money for the purchase of land for Jewish national settlement in the Land of Israel. Its role was crucial - until the founding of the state. It has been here ever since because of excuses and legal, political, andgeneral casuistry. The land purchased at the time with money from Diaspora Jews still "belongs" to it, and is managed under agreement by the Israel Land Authority.

The state last year gave JNF a check for NIS 2.6 billion for "its" land - without effort, without work, tax-exempt - under a law enacted in 1952. This money, which comes from the Israeli public, has become a huge resource for the JNF, which supports its fellow national institutions.

In late 2017, it was decided to eliminate JNF's exemption from taxes on profits from land registered in its name and managed by it. In response, JNF predicted "a steep drop in the organization's profits on land."

Budget: Officially - NIS 1 billion, but also "an additional budget for projects, investments in breakthrough projects, cooperation, and various investments for the current budget." JNF also says that a NIS 250 million budget has been approved for "land redemption and development."

1,100 permanent employees

60 human resources personnel

200 guides

16 emissaries

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on February 20, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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