Israel's Foreign Ministry to Retain Cultural Ties Department, Despite Miri Regev’s Demands

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Culture Minister Miri Regev in the Knesset during the preliminary vote on a private member's bill to repeal the Book Law, Mar. 23, 2016. Regev stands at the podium in the Knesset plenum.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev. Had requested that control of the Division for Cultural and Scientific Affairs be transferred to her ministry.Credit: Emil Salman

The Foreign Ministry department that oversees the export of Israeli culture around the world is not being transferred to the Culture and Sports Ministry, contrary to earlier reports.

However, the Division for Cultural and Scientific Affairs will strengthen ties with the Culture Ministry, and one of its employees will be seconded to it in order to coordinate the international activities of both ministries.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had acceded to Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev’s request to take over responsibility for the department, although its employees would remain Foreign Ministry employees.

A workers’ committee at the Foreign Ministry strongly objected and disrupted an appointments committee meeting. Apparently, the ministry’s director general, Dore Gold, had not been consulted and was unaware of the decision.

Later in the day, it was announced that Regev and the Foreign Ministry had decided on a common work plan involving cooperation “for the benefit of strengthening Israel’s international standing and the development of culture and sports.”

The division was established in the 1990s, in order to showcase Israeli cultural and scientific activity to the world. Its annual budget in recent years has been between 9 and 10 million shekels ($2.4 to $2.6 million). It helps finance Israeli theater and dance performances overseas, as well as helping promote Israeli films and books, and helping artists participate in international festivals and Biennales.

The department is in contact with over 100 Israeli missions and their cultural attachés. Its activities include scientific collaborations between Israeli scientists and their counterparts overseas. It transfers funds to embassies overseas, which assist institutions and artists in financing their travels and transporting the equipment required for their performances.

Estimates are that the Foreign Ministry division will continue to operate independently. It has just reassumed control for “Isra-Drama” events, which present original Israeli drama to overseas theaters and festivals.

Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold. Didn't know about the plan to move the division to the Culture and Sports Ministry.Credit: AFP

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