Jewish Agency Plans $300M-a-Year Push for Israel

Most Expensive Plan Ever Would Dwarf Birthright and Hillel

Biggest Ever: A massive new Jewish Agency pro-Israel push is dubbed the Prime Minister’s Initiative. Still, Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly spoken about the $300 million-a-year plan.
getty images
Biggest Ever: A massive new Jewish Agency pro-Israel push is dubbed the Prime Minister’s Initiative. Still, Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly spoken about the $300 million-a-year plan.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 15, 2013, issue of August 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A Jewish Agency for Israel plan currently in development would combine donor dollars from the United States with Israeli government funds to create what is likely the most expensive pro-Israel campaign ever.

If brought to fruition, the initiative would eventually spend $300 million a year on pro-Israel efforts in the United States and other parts of the Diaspora.

That’s more than three times the annual budget of Taglit-Birthright Israel, more than three times the annual expenditures of all Hillel chapters put together and more than 150 times the annual budget of the Israel Action Network, the much vaunted Jewish communal group founded in 2010 to promote Israel’s image on college campuses.

Yet far greater uncertainty surrounds the plan than previously reported. Despite being dubbed The Prime Minister’s Initiative by the Jewish Agency, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to back the plan in a statement to the Forward.

“[A]t the present, various ways are being examined to bolster the ties between Israel and the Diaspora communities,” Netanyahu’s office wrote in a statement released August 14.

The Jewish Agency’s United States-based fundraising chief, Misha Galperin, said that Netanyahu supported the plan. “This is the interest and the direction the prime minister wants to move in,” Galperin insisted. He asserted that Netanyahu’s office would not speak publicly about it before the government was ready to make a commitment, but that Netanyahu had directed Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky to investigate the plan’s feasibility. Galperin said that the Jewish Agency did not have specific authorization to call the project the Prime Minister’s Initiative, and that the agency was only speaking publicly about the plan after a leaked internal planning document was posted by the website eJewishPhilanthropy.

As described by Galperin, the plan would take a portion of the contributions made by American Jews to Jewish federations and send the funds to an as-yet-to-be-determined entity, the identity of which is the subject of meetings being convened by the Jewish Agency. Those funds would be combined with government funds and sent back to the Diaspora for pro-Israel programming.

The program would dwarf earlier pro-Israel efforts like the Israel Action Network, created by major Jewish institutions based in the United States with a $6 million commitment over three years.

The managing director of that effort had not yet heard of the Prime Minister’s Initiative when contacted by the Forward. Yet other Jewish officials in the United States say they are not concerned about their organizations being pushed aside by the Jewish Agency plan.

“We’re going to be at the table together, working arm in arm,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America. Silverman’s group had a budget of $47 million in 2010, a sixth of the budget of the proposed Prime Minister’s Initiative.

Under the proposed plan, some funds would be spent on Birthright and other Israel trips for Diaspora Jews. Another pool of funds would be used to bolster immigration to Israel among young Jewish professionals. Other money would be used to support Israel education in Diaspora Jewish communities and to send Israelis to Jewish institutions outside Israel. Finally, some funds would be used for pro-Israel programming on campuses.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.