Blue and White MK: Diaspora Jews must ‘have a voice’ in Israel

“I want Diaspora Jewry to have a voice,” said MK Tehila Friedman. “We need to take them into account.”

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

MK Tehila Friedman of the Blue and White party spoke to Arutz 7 on Tuesday about a new bill she present to the Knesset, which requires Israel to speak with representatives from Jewish groups outside of Israel when making decisions about Jewish issues.

Friedman is a member of the Knesset’s Aliyah and Integration Committee and a former advisor to Natan Sharansky, who served as Minister of Diaspora Affairs.

“I’m calling it the Consultation Law,” she told Arutz 7. “The main idea is that whenever the Israeli government is making decisions that have a direct impact on diaspora Jewry… we have to consult with representation from the Jewish people.”

An example of an Israeli policy that would have had a direct impact on Jews in the Diaspora was the recent proposal by MK Betzalel Smotrich of the Yemina party to amend the Law of Return.

Currently, the Law of Return gives the right to settle in Israel to anyone with Jewish heritage going back two generations. Smotrich suggested changing it to include only those who are Jewish or born to a Jewish parent.

“There was a discussion…about cancelling the Law of Return [the ability for those to immigrate] for people whose only connection… is a grandparent who was a Jew,” Friedman explained.

“Now this decision, had it been made, has a very direct impact on the Jewish people… it’s more than who’s a Jew… who do we consider as part of the Jewish people? We can’t make this decision without at least listening [to diaspora Jews].”

She said that when Israel’s first prime minister David Ben Gurion developed the Law of Return, he consulted with 15 international Halachic experts and scholars of Judaism.

“Why shouldn’t we do the same?” she asked.

She clarified that she was not speaking about issues such as Israel’s economy or security. “That’s only for citizens to decide,” she said.

“I want diaspora Jewry to have a voice. They can’t have a vote… We need to take them into account. We can’t talk about them without them.”

Friedman said that the new legislation was received well by diaspora Jewry, with many organizations expressing their excitement to participate.

But, she added, “On the other hand, and rightly so, it is raising many questions. Who should we consider as representatives for diaspora Jewry? How exactly would we define ‘direct impact?’”