As Self-appointed Diaspora Minister, Netanyahu Vows to Protect Jewish Communities Threatened by anti-Semitism

Netanyahu tells Jewish Agency that Israel needs to 'shift money from civilian areas to military areas' due to Iran threat, accuses Gantz of preventing unity government

PM Netanyahu speaking at the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting, Jerusalem, October 28, 2019
Lior Mizrahi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a forum of world Jewish leaders on Monday that in his new position as minister of diaspora affairs, he planned to increase funding to protect Jewish communities abroad that are threatened by anti-Semitism. 

“I’ve just been appointed – by me – as minister of diaspora affairs, so I intend to grant money from this office for that purpose,” he told the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, which is convening this week in Jerusalem.

This follows the announcement of a new strategic plan for the Jewish Agency, yet to be ratified, which, the leadership hopes, would see increased funds for ensuring the safety and security of Jewish communities outside Israel. This is despite apparent financial problems in the organization.

Netanyahu warned the Jewish leaders that Israel was facing a major threat from Iran, which would require heavy investments in defense and security. He said the country was at “a pivot point” and insisted this was not “spin.”

“We have to shift money from civilian areas to military areas now,” he said. “That is very hard to do. You can do it in time of crisis or you can do it in anticipation to avoid a crisis.”

This reorganization of national priorities, he said, would require the formation of a “broad-shouldered government” – a reference to the national unity government he has tried hard but failed to form after last month’s election. Last week, the mandate to form a government was handed over to Benny Gantz, a former chief of staff who heads of the Kahol Lavan party.

In his first address to an audience of world Jewish leaders since losing the mandate, Netanyahu did not touch on issues considered to be of special significance to this audience, such as Jewish pluralism and religious freedom.

Instead, he spoke of the importance of Jewish unity in light of the new dangers he said Israel faced today.

“If we want to secure the Jewish future, we must secure the future of the Jewish state,” he said.

Netanyahu blamed the deadlock in coalition talks on Kahol Lavan, which emerged as the largest party in the last election. He said there was “no reason we can’t have a government in the next 24 hours,” accusing certain “forces” in Gantz’s party for the failure to reach an agreement. He specifically mentioned Yair Lapid, who holds the second spot in the Kahol Lavan slate.