Diaspora Jews Deserve a Say in Israeli Decision Making, Says Think Tank

Government should form a body for regular consultations with Jewish Diaspora, Jewish People Policy Institute recommends.

Israel should establish a forum for regular consultations with the Jewish Diaspora to discuss matters that could affect Jewish communities worldwide, the Jewish People Policy Institute recommended in its 2013 Annual Assessment.

The heads of the Israeli-based think tank, which includes veteran U.S. diplomat Denis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat, a prominent lawyer and former U.S. undersecretary of state, presented its annual report to the Israeli government in a press conference in Jerusalem on Sunday. The institution has been publishing and presenting the government with detailed assessments on the Jewish People in Israel and abroad since 2005.

In the press conference Ross said that while Israel's geopolitical situation was not good, there are some positive developments. One of the positive elements, he said, was the discovery of offshore natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean.

“Israel is in a position, as it looks at its future, of being able to meet its own energy needs, and also being able to export as well. And that export… puts Israel in a position of actually being able to have a different kind of political relationship with other countries,” he said.

Another development that could have positive implications on Israel was the uprising in the Arab World, Ross said, because its neighbors were busy dealing with internal problems. “…almost every country in the region right now is consumed internally,” he said, “they're focused more on themselves than they are on Israelis.”

Ross also noted that the rise to power of political Islam, such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, actually hurting the movement since “it's proving to be incapable of delivering anything.”

On the other hand, the civil war in Syria should worry Israel, according to Ross. He said that the worst case scenario for Israel is a situation in which Syria completely collapses into a state anarchy with no central government and portions of the country controlled by Al Qaida.

“Syria presents all sorts of uncertainties, and it's hard to see in the near term scenarios that don't confront Israel with a set of increasingly difficult choices,” he said.

In regards to Jewish identity, the report states that programs like Birthright and Massa are having positive effect on the younger generation, despite the trend of weakening identification of people of Jewish descent with the Jewish People.

“Today's young generation sees the link with the Jewish People and the State of Israel as an option, for them this is a choice of being Jewish," Einat Wilf, one of the reports contributors, said. "Despite the fact that the trend is negative, there are indications that this is changing, we see that the different programs are having an effect."

One recommendation that the members of the institute believe is likely to be implemented is the establishment of a forum in which the government could hold regular discussions with the Diaspora.

Members of the forum, the report suggests, should include intellectuals, retired government officials and the like. The purpose of this body is to allow for Diaspora Jews to have a say and voice their concern over actions that could affect Jewish communities around the world.

"It's important that Jews feel that their voice is heard and at the very least is taken under consideration," Wilf explained. 

Maya Levin