Israel Says Shutting Down Jewish Agency in Russia Would Harm Ties

Prime Minister Lapid asks Israeli delegation to 'make every effort' to prevent the Russian move to outlaw the Jewish Agency in the country

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Yair Lapid at the Knesset, last week.
Yair Lapid at the Knesset, last week.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's prime minister said on Sunday that ending the Jewish Agency's operations in Russia would harm ties with Moscow, calling it a "serious" move.

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In a special meeting following a court decision last week to outlaw the agency in Russia, Prime Minister Yair Lapid instructed a delegation headed to Moscow to "make every effort" on the legal and diplomatic level.

"Shutting down the Jewish Agency's offices would be a serious event with repercussions on ties" between Israel and Russia, Lapid said.

Russia’s Justice Ministry has asked a Moscow court to order the Jewish Agency shut, citing a violation of Russian law. It has been operating in the country for 30 years as an independent Russian organization.

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Israeli officials are struggling to assess what the Russian motive for the action against the agency is. Some sources rejected the possibility it was done in "revenge" for Israel's alignment with the United States and the West on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but others did not rule that out. "It's hard to know, but it is definitely an option," one diplomatic source said.

According to another diplomatic source, the agency only updated the Israeli leadership about its entanglement with Russian authorities in the last few weeks.

On Friday, former Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky urged Russian Jews to move to Israel as soon as possible, a day after Moscow called for the aliyah organization’s liquidation in Russia.

The news came only hours after it was reported that Israel had clarification from Moscow following reports that the Kremlin has threatened to shut down the Jewish Agency’s aliyah activities in Russia amidst a sharp increase in immigration to the Jewish state.

A hearing on the topic is scheduled for July 28, which will determine the agency’s future in the Russian Federation.

In response, Prime Minister Yair Lapid has decided to send a delegation to Russia this week in order to ensure the continuation of the agency's work. This came after he convened a meeting with representatives from the Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council.

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