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July 21, 2022 1:32 pm
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Israel to Send Diplomatic Delegation to Russia Over Effort to Shut Down Jewish Agency

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israel’s interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid chairs the first cabinet meeting, days after lawmakers dissolved parliament, in Jerusalem July 3, 2022. Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via REUTERS

A high-level delegation of Israeli officials will be sent to Moscow as Russian legal authorities are set to discuss the closure of the Jewish Agency’s activities there next week.

“The Jewish community in Russia is deeply connected with Israel. Its importance arises in every diplomatic discussion with the Russian leadership,” stated Prime Minister Yair Lapid. “We will continue to act through diplomatic channels so that the Jewish Agency’s important activity will not cease.”

The Russian Ministry of Justice said Thursday it had filed a request to strip the Jewish Agency from the state register of legal entities, claiming the organization violated Russian law by allegedly maintaining a database of Russian Jews planning to emigrate to Israel.

More than 16,000 Russian Jews have left for Israel since Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The ministry’s lawsuit will be discussed at a hearing on July 28.

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In response, Israel announced Thursday that a joint delegation with officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Justice Ministry and the Aliyah and Integration Ministry will depart for Russia to ensure that the Jewish Agency can continue its operations in the country.

The step was taken after an assessment meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Council, Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“There is no justifiable reason to stop the activity of the Agency and therefore diplomatic efforts are underway to clarify the issue and regulate the activities,” said Pnina Tamano-Shata, Minister of Aliyah and Integration. “As we have worked in cooperation with the Russian authorities for many decades, I have no doubt that the appropriate solutions will be found.”

An additional Israeli interagency meeting is scheduled for Sunday.

Israel has attempted to walk a fine line since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, showing support for Kyiv without jeopardizing its interests in Moscow, which include the freedom to operate in the airspace over Syria.

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Bennett avoided openly criticizing Russia over the war, limiting Israeli assistance to humanitarian aid while seeking to mediate between the two sides. Lapid, who served as foreign minister before taking office in July as caretaker prime minister, has at times been more vocal, accusing Russian forces of committing “war crimes” in Ukraine.

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