Ne Me Quitte Pas: Netanyahu Intervenes to Keep Israel French Friendly

Haaretz reported that Israel plans to stop providing services in French, leaving about 3,000 French-speaking immigrants in linguistic limbo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, looks to French President Emmanuel Macron as he places his hands on his shoulder after they maid declarations at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Sunday, July 16, 2017.
Stephane Mahe/AP

Israel is rethinking its decision to end French-language social work services, following intervention by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Social Affairs Ministry.

Netanyahu asked Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz on Monday to figure out a way to continue funding the program, which provides both French- and Ukrainian-speaking social workers to help French and Ukrainian immigrants. Finance Ministry sources said that in the wake of this request, funding was likely to be found quickly, but cautioned that the project still hadn’t received final approval.

The project’s budget for the coming year is expected to be 3.5 million shekels ($1 million).

Netanyahu intervened in response to an appeal by Qualita, an association of French immigrants in Israel, coupled with Haaretz’s report on Monday that French-language welfare services would stop as of January because the government had stopped funding the program.

There are about 100,000 French immigrants in Israel, of whom roughly 3,000 needed French-language welfare assistance over the last two years. The government decided to start providing this service in 2015 due to a surge in French immigration since 2013. The French-speaking social workers and translators are available only in cities with large populations of French immigrants.

The Ukrainian half of the project has helped some 2,000 Ukrainian immigrants.

The Social Affairs Ministry said Katz has asked the treasury for additional funding to keep the project going for both French and Ukrainian immigrants. Qualita said it welcomed the decision and hoped the funding would come through.