Olmert: Scandals not Diaspora’s business


(JTA) — Corruption scandals are "none of Diaspora Jewry’s business," Israel’s prime minister ranted during discussion of a report assessing Israel and the Jewish people’s situation.

The annual assessment of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, the think tank of the Jewish Agency for Israel, was presented Monday to Israel’s Cabinet.

The report called Ehud Olmert’s resignation "a depressing climax to the parade of corruption in the senior echelons" of government and hoped that "out of the ruins of the Olmert government, perhaps a cleaner political culture will emerge."

"I unequivocally stand behind the things that were said," institute head Avinoam Bar-Yosef, a former journalist for Ma’ariv, told Ha’aretz. "There is no doubt that in the annual assessment of the situation of the Jewish people, the corruption affairs cannot be ignored. This is very disturbing to Jewish communities – that seven people who hold some of the highest offices in the land are suspects or on trial. If we want to nurture Jewish identity, it must be based on pride. What’s happening in Israel doesn’t particularly help. This harms pride."

Olmert at the end of the meeting lashed out not only at the institute’s report but also such figures as tennis star Andy Ram and Israeli rightists.

The report features several recommendations, including a call for augmenting the Jewish people’s crisis management system in view of terror threats and enhancing the interface between the government of Israel and Jewish leaders across the world.

The report also addresses the change in president in the United States, stating that the departure of a staunch ally of Israel like President Bush poses a significant challenge. At the same time, it also says that President Obama could end up helping Israel and U.S. Jews if he is able to improve American standing in the world.

In addition to reviewing the year’s events and offering recommendations to address various challenges, the report included a lengthy special section examining the historical and contemporary roles played by women in the Jewish community.

“The good news is that gender-based income and employment gaps have been significantly reduced, and that young Jewish women of all denominations are now at the forefront of community life,” the institute declared in a statement.

The report notes, however, that many barriers remain to the promotion of qualified women, and that outside Israel more and more women are choosing to remain single.

The institute, established by the Jewish Agency but run independently, had been chaired by Dennis Ross, the former U.S. Middle East negotiator, but he stepped down this week after being tapped by the Obama administration to return to the State Department as a special adviser on Iran.

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