Israel Willing to Accommodate Russia in Jewish Agency Case


A sign outside the entrance of a Russian branch of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) office in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

By Hamodia Staff

YERUSHALAYIM – Israel continued to pursue a conciliatory approach after a pretrial hearing of the case against the Jewish Agency, threatened with closure by the Russian justice ministry, in Moscow on Thursday.

Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata said that Israel is prepared to address the ministry’s claims against the agency and to make whatever adjustments are necessary to allow the organization to continue operating in the country, to promote emigration to Israel.

“The government of Israel is giving the necessary legal assistance to the Jewish Agency to deal with the claims that were made against it by the Russian justice ministry, and I am sure that the issue will be resolved quickly. Even if this will require some adjustments — we are prepared for it,” Tamano-Shata said

Earlier in the week, interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned that if Russia closed down the agency’s offices it would be a “grave event” that would harm bilateral ties. But the next day, he shifted to more conciliatory language, saying that Israel stands ready for dialogue on the matter.

The Moscow district court refused to dismiss the case brought against the Jewish Agency in Russia, paving the way for a trial on the charge that it has violated the law by allegedly collecting citizens’ information.

The trial’s first hearing will commence on Aug. 19, with the implication being that the ongoing political tension between Israel and Russia will likely continue for the time being, even if the Jewish Agency will continue to operate in the meantime.

Israel dispatched a legal delegation to Russia on Wednesday in an effort to resolve the dispute, but there was little expectation that the court would not let the case move forward. Israeli officials are working under the assumption that the decision to go ahead with the trial was in fact made by senior levels in the Russian government rather than by the presiding judge.

Russia has alleged that the Jewish Agency has breached privacy laws by collecting the personal information of people who are interested in immigrating to Israel. Authorities seek to halt the agency’s activities entirely, and have taken it to court in order to make this permanent.

Russia’s efforts to curtail the activity of the Jewish Agency could be linked to its displeasure with Israel’s statements on the ongoing war in Ukraine. Relations between the two countries have become strained in recent months after Israel condemned the Ukraine war and summoned the Russian ambassador over comments made by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about Adolf Hitler. The recent allegations have stirred worries in Israel about a crisis with Russia, which is home to a large Jewish community and wields clout in next-door Syria. Lapid has said the closing of the Jewish Agency’s offices in Russia would be “grave, with ramifications for relations” between Jerusalem and Moscow.

The Jewish Agency issued a statement after the preliminary hearing took place in Moscow, saying that “it will present its arguments” when the court reconvenes in late August

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