On Sunday, the government is expected to transfer some of the responsibility for the "Nativ" Russian-Jewish immigration agency to Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Ministry. Until now, Nativ fell under the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s office.
Nativ, founded in 1952, functioned originally as a covert office responsible for reaching Jews behind the Iron Curtain, strengthening their connection to Judaism, Zionism, and Israel. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Nativ slowly withered until 2006 when Lieberman, then Minister of Strategic Affairs, took responsibility for the organization.
At the time, Lieberman spearheaded a controversial effort to expand Nativ’s operations to Russian Jews in Germany. Both governmental and Jewish officials in Germany opposed the move, as they were trying to facilitate the rebirth of a Jewish community in the country, which had not had a major Jewish community since World War II.
As part of the current Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition agreement, Lieberman will head an immigration committee which will incorporate Nativ. The cabinet budgeted a NIS 82 million discretionary fund to be used towards immigration. In addition, the government committed itself to spending an additional NIS 3 million on immigrant rent assistance.
Nativ officials testified at a Knesset committee in 2008 that there remain 880,000 people in Russia and the Ukraine who are eligible to make Aliyah [immigration to Israel]. Over 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union immigrated to Germany in the past two decades.