Russia rejects Israeli delegation to discuss Jewish Agency

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An Israeli legal delegation that intends to travel to Russia to discuss the closure of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) Russian representative office has not yet received approval from the Moscow authorities.

Haaretz newspaper reported that an Israeli legal delegation is preparing to travel to Moscow to discuss the preliminary review hearing to be held on Thursday, July 28, regarding the Russian Justice Ministry’s request to “close JAFI’s Russian representative office”.

The newspaper reported that the Russian authorities have not yet given approval to the Israeli legal delegation.

Israeli officials told the newspaper that they were concerned that Russia’s refusal to allow the legal delegation to travel would prevent adequate preparation for Thursday’s hearing and that they were not confident that the issue would be “resolved through legal or diplomatic means.”

“Russia’s demands on JAFI started about a year ago, long before the Ukrainian war or the inauguration of Prime Minister Yair Lapid,” an Israeli official said. This seems to be a legal issue that has taken a diplomatic turn.”

The newspaper wrote that the deterioration of Tel Aviv’s relations with Russia, with which it is in military coordination for its air and missile strikes in Syria, has caused concern not only for security, but also for preventing the definitive immigration of some 600,000 Russian citizens of Jewish descent who are eligible to immigrate to Israel.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry’s legal counsel is preparing a response to the crisis should the situation worsen, the report said.

-Warning letters to Jewish NGOs from Moscow government

On the other hand, according to the Jerusalem Post, other Jewish non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Russia, such as JAFI, which receive financial support from abroad, particularly from the US and Israel, have also received warning letters from the Moscow government.

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It was reported that the Russian government sent warning letters to Jewish NGOs similar to JAFI that they “could be considered foreign elements” and therefore “could be closed down”.

An NGO contacted by the newspaper said that “its activities continue in the same way.”

– “Closing JAFI would affect relations”

In a meeting yesterday with a number of ministers and officials from relevant institutions and organizations, Israeli Prime Minister Lapid said that the closure of JAFI’s Russian representative office would “affect relations between the two countries”.

Lapid was reported to have instructed the legal delegation to go to Moscow as soon as possible, “to exert all legal efforts and advance high-level diplomatic dialogue” on the issue, if Russia approves the talks.

-Russian Justice Ministry’s request to “liquidate the Jewish Agency’s representative office”

The Russian Ministry of Justice had requested the liquidation of JAFI’s representative office in Russia, and it was reported that the preliminary review hearing on the issue was expected to be held on July 28.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the request for the closure of JAFI’s representative office in Russia was related to Russian legislation.

-Jewish Agency founded in 1929

Founded in 1929, JAFI’s stated goal is “to empower Jewish peoples around the world to connect with their heritage and land and to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel.”

The agency is also known for its activities to settle Jews in Palestinian territories.

Israel-Russia relations “fluctuate”

Israel has been cautious in Syria, given its freedom of military action, and has found it difficult to maintain its relations with Russia.

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In Syria, where Russia plays an active military role, the Israeli army, in coordination with Moscow, has been carrying out numerous airstrikes against Iranian and regime targets.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Israel has refrained from confronting Russia and has been under pressure from the US and its allies in the West for this reason.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett avoided mentioning Russia’s name in his first statements on the war in Ukraine. Then Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned Russia’s attacks and pointed to Moscow’s role.

Israel has so far emphasized humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and at the end of April, Israel decided to send body armor and military helmets to Kiev.

In April, the United Nations General Assembly expelled Russia from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council because of its war against Ukraine, and Israel voted against Russia in the resolution.

Following the vote, the Russian Foreign Ministry emphasized that Israel was “trying to use the situation in Ukraine to distract the international community from the Palestinian issue.”

Russian leaders’ phone traffic with Palestinian officials also intensified during this period.

Israel’s reaction to Lavrov’s “Hitler was of Jewish origin” remarks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements in early May that Adolf Hitler was of Jewish descent drew reactions from the highest level in Israel, and the Russian Ambassador to Tel Aviv was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

Then Israeli Prime Minister Bennett, Foreign Minister Lapid and many other senior figures reacted to Lavrov’s statements.

In a written statement made by the Israeli government, it was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized to Bennett for Lavrov’s statements that “Hitler was of Jewish origin”.

However, the statement from the Kremlin did not contain any information about Putin’s apology.

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