Russia's Deputy FM Meets With Israeli Envoy Amid Jewish Agency Spat

Israel's ambassador to Moscow requested the meeting, which also focussed on Syria, after the Russian Justice Ministry moved to liquidate the Jewish Agency, accusing it of violating data collection laws

Liza Rozovsky
Liza Rozovsky
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A Jewish Agency building in Ra'anana.
A Jewish Agency building in Ra'anana.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Liza Rozovsky
Liza Rozovsky

Russia's deputy foreign minister met with Israel's ambassador in Moscow on Friday, the Kremlin said, a day after its Justice Ministry asked a local court to rule on dissolving the Jewish Agency for Israel's branch in the country, claiming that it had violated the law during its activities.

According to Israel's Foreign Ministry, Deputy Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi discussed "a number of issues that are on the mutual agenda and exchanges views on international and regional issues, with an emphasis on Syria and its surroundings."

The Russian Foreign Ministry emphasized that the meeting occurred at the Israeli ambassador's request. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem refused to provide further details on the content of the meeting.

The Russian Justice Ministry asked a Moscow court on Thursday to dissolve the Jewish Agency, which operates there as an independent Russian organization. A preliminary hearing has been set for next Thursday, according to Russia's state-owned TASS news agency.

Earlier this month, a letter that Russia’s Justice Ministry sent to the agency’s office in Moscow accused it of collecting, storing and transfers data about Russian citizens in violation of the law. This charge refers to the data the agency collects about candidates for immigration to Israel – a major part of its activities.

The letter said this conduct violates Russian laws on data storage and information protection, and that the agency must shut down in Russia. Nevertheless, it did not explicitly demand that it cease operations immediately.

Former Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky urged Russian Jews to move to Israel as soon as possible on Friday after news of the Justice Ministry's request.

In a Facebook post, Sharansky, a former “refusenik” who was imprisoned by the Soviet authorities for nearly a decade during the late 1970s and early ’80s due to his human rights activism, framed the move as part of the ongoing Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine, which has seen a surge in immigration to Israel from both countries.

“Since the beginning of Putin's barbaric invasion of Ukraine, Israel has taken a cautious stance and offered only limited support to Ukraine,” he wrote, echoing earlier criticism of Jerusalem’s Ukraine policy, which he had previously told Haaretz stemmed from former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s fear to call out Putin.

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