Minister of Information and Diaspora - the emptiest job of all
Yuli Edelstein has been given the emptiest brief of all in Netanyahu's mammoth cabinet.
Congratulations on your new ministerial appointment. What a pity you've been given the emptiest brief of all in Netanyahu's mammoth cabinet. Yes, even emptier than the job given to your colleague Michael Eitan, who has been put in charge of "improving services for citizens, computerization and the Internet." At least Eitan won't have any competitors.
Even before you have started, there are much more powerful rivals in place who will leave you no room for making or carrying out any policy of your own. The government already has a hasbara czar, Netanyahu's right-hand man Ron Dermer, who is going to be in charge of the Information Directorate in the Prime Minister's Office and coordinate all contact with the international media. You know Dermer well enough. He won't be taking directions, or even advice, from you. The other main hasbara asset is in the foreign ministry with its network of press officers around the globe - and Avigdor Lieberman isn't about to cede any bit of his new kingdom.
Lieberman is also the man about to take away the second part of your brief, the Diaspora. I'm sure you are familiar with the details of the coalition agreement with Yisrael Beiteinu. Not only was Lieberman promised control of Nativ, the semi-secret government department in charge of contact with Jews in the former Soviet Union, he also secured a whopping NIS 75 million addition to Nativ's budget. For a tiny department with fewer than a hundred employees, such a windfall can only mean one thing: rapid expansion. Lieberman is on the way to having his own private Jewish Agency.
Meanwhile, don't think you are going to get your hands on the original Jewish Agency. Whoever Netanyahu appoints to the chairmanship of that bankrupt organization will not be answerable to you. It's nothing personal, but you have no budget and in today's crazy financial climate, the next Agency chairman will be more than ever beholden to the few donors left to him overseas.
Not that you have lost much, anyway. Your title is a combination of two abstract - not to say absurd - concepts. Hasbara is the ridiculous notion that if Israel can only somehow find the way to explain itself to the world, suddenly the BBC will like us. The best-paid PR executives in the world haven't found the secret.
The new Information Directorate has improved coordination between the various government departments, but when the tanks rolled into Gaza it didn't make any difference. Israel's international reputation plummeted yet again. You are honest enough to admit that a hasbara minister won't change anything.
As for the Diaspora brief, what does that mean? Are you in charge of all the Jews around the world? There isn't even a Jewish people in any real sense, just scattered communities and millions of individuals. You won't be in charge of welcoming the Jews returning to their homeland, either: That's the job of the absorption minister. You remember, that used to be your old job. Now that's also gone to one of Lieberman's minions.
How about Jewish education around the world? An important issue and no one else in the government is dealing with it. Only problem is, education is expensive. Who will listen to any of your ideas if you haven't got the funds?
Netanyahu rewarded your loyalty with a seat at the cabinet table, but a budget is a gift of the treasury. If you had come from one of the coalition partners, you could have bludgeoned out a special grant as part of the coalition agreement - but you are only a Likud member. Loyalty has its price.
So what else is left? Restitution of Jewish property from the Nazi era? You need teams of highly-paid lawyers and accountants to do that and as it is, the Claims Conference has already cornered that market. They won't let you in on their act. Fighting anti-Semitism? Once again, with what?
I suppose you could say that you are in charge of the government's relations with the Diaspora, but that also is hopeless. The ministers who have good relations with rich and influential Jews abroad don't need you, and certainly won't want you interfering. The powerful Jewish organizations want to meet with the prime minister when they come visiting, or at the very least get a briefing with someone with a sexy position in the defense establishment. You will get sent to address the conferences that no one else wants to attend.
No one can question the commitment of a man who was prepared to sit for three years in a Soviet jail for his Zionist activities. As the son of a priest in the Russian Orthodox church, you certainly understand the issues of assimilation and identity facing Jews around the world. But you are powerless to do anything about them.
So what are you going to do for the next few years? You really don't have many options. Spend the next few months reading every report and study written on the bleak future of the next Jewish generation, and meet every expert in the field. Take advantage of the fact that until a few months ago, when the money ran out, a lot of research was going on. Then spend a few more months making your own plan on what Israel can do to help them retain their Jewish identity. Be clear on how much every bit of it is going to cost, and set out a timetable for implementation.
Then get yourself an hour of Netanyahu's schedule and put your plan on his desk. If he says no, you might as well have your resignation letter handy.
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