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Saturday, February 3, 2007

Israel Prime Minister's Office closing Diaspora Affairs department

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/02/israel-prime-ministers-office-closing.html

Last update - 20:56 02/02/2007   

Prime Minister's Office closing Diaspora Affairs department
 
By Amiram Barkat , Haaretz Correspondent

The Prime Minister's Office is closing down its department for Diaspora affairs, but said that a new Diaspora minister would be appointed during the upcoming ministerial portfolio shuffle.
 
The last two workers in the current Diaspora department of the Prime Minster's Office have received dismissal notices. In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office explained that since the MK that personally appointed the two during a previous administration, Michael Melchior (Labor), is no longer in the cabinet, it would be a violation of government employment guidelines to keep them on.
 
Once the department closes, no official government body will deal with Diaspora affairs except for the Foreign Ministry's department for Jewish communities, whose activity was also curtailed about a year ago.
 

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The Prime Minister's Office said however that the liaison that handled some of the Diaspora affairs in previous administrations would now take on the full responsibility.
 
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that despite the consolidation of the Diaspora and the Religions departments some two years ago, the ministry has since expanded its involvement in Diaspora affairs. The ministry founded a new department for Holocaust remembrance and the battle against anti-Semitism. In addition, the ministry said, even in times when there had been an active Diaspora minister, the foreign ministry had assisted him greatly with his responsibilities.
 
The Diaspora department's closure followed a year during which no minister would take the Diaspora Affairs portfolio, which consists, among other things, of fighting anti-Semitism, working to restore Jewish property plundered in the Holocaust and involvement in the Taglit-birthright israel and Masa programs, which bring Jewish youngsters on visits to Israel.
 
In a similar vein, the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism, founded by MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) and consisting of all Jewish organizations that fight anti-Semitism, is to hold a conference in Israel next week. The conference was made possible after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni decided that the Foreign Ministry would take over this issue.
 
A few days ago, the ministry discovered that it had no budget for the conference and its guests will have to pay their own expenses. However, on Friday the foreign ministry issued a statement that it had obtained a special budget and that the conference is expected to be the largest of its kind since the establishment of the Forum.
 
The Diaspora Affairs portfolio was formed seven years ago, when Melchior held it in Ehud Barak's government. In 2003, Natan Sharansky received the portfolio in Ariel Sharon's government, but was replaced by Melchio


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