chapter  17
11 Pages

Moral and Symbolic Elements in the Politics of Israel-Diaspora Relations

WithCharles S. Liebman

There is an inherent asymmetry in the political relations between Israel and the various diaspora communities and subcommunities. Israel is a state. The diaspora communities, whether organized territorially, ideologically, or socially, are voluntary organizations. Statehood means that Israel has mechanisms, formal and informal, for the establishment of public policy—mechanisms embedded in the constitutional and political system of Israel. They are relatively closed to pressures from diaspora Jewry which are generated from outside the political system and have no domestic counterpart. This is not to say that diaspora Jewry has never influenced Israel in the adoption of public policy. It has. But it does suggest that a diaspora organization must generate a great deal more pressure to influence Israel than would be required by an organization or community within the Israeli political system. In other words, diaspora Jewry has no voice in shaping Israeli policy precisely because the mechanisms of policy formation are relatively speaking rather structured. The diaspora can only hope to influence one or more of the participants in the policy-making process. In the less structured, more fluid situation of diaspora decision making, Israel can exercise a direct voice because no “rules of the game” exclude it.