World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency
Principal among these bodies were the World Zionist Organization
(WZO--see Glossary) and the Jewish Agency. The Jewish Agency for
Palestine was established in 1929 under the terms of the League
of Nations Mandate for Palestine as the operative arm of the WZO
in building a Jewish national homeland. In 1952 the Knesset enacted
the World Zionist Organization-The Jewish Agency (Status) Law,
defining the WZO as "also the Jewish Agency." The 1952 law expressly
designated the WZO as "the authorized agency which will continue
to operate in the State of Israel for the development and settlement
of the country, the absorption of immigrants from the Diaspora
and the coordination of activities in Israel of Jewish institutions
and organizations active in those fields." The same statute granted
tax-exempt status to the Jewish Agency and the authority to represent
the WZO as its action arm for fund raising and, in close cooperation
with the government, for the promotion of Jewish immigration.
The specifics of cooperation were spelled out in a covenant entered
into with the government in 1954. The 1954 pact also recognized
the WZO and the Jewish Agency as official representatives of world
These two bodies played a significant role in consolidating the
new State of Israel, absorbing and resettling immigrants, and
enlisting support from, and fostering the unity of, the Diaspora.
Their activities included organizing immigration, resettling immigrants,
assisting their employment in agriculture and industry, education,
raising funds abroad, and purchasing land in Israel for settlers
through the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet). In principle,
the WZO was responsible mainly for political and organizational
matters important to Zionists--Jewish education in the Diaspora
and supervision of the Jewish National Fund--whereas the Jewish
Agency's main concern was for financial and economic activities.
In practice, the division of functions was more often obscured,
resulting in a duplication of efforts and a bureaucratic morass.
In 1971 the relationship between the WZO and the Jewish Agency
was reconstituted as part of a continuing effort to improve the
operations of these bodies and to harmonize and strengthen ties
between the state and the Diaspora. The need for this step was
thought to be particularly acute after the June 1967 War, when
contributions to Israel from previously uncommitted sections of
the Diaspora reached unprecedented proportions. Impressed by the
show of support, the congress of the WZO, which is usually convened
every four years, directed the Jewish Agency to initiate discussions
with all fund-raising institutions working for Israel. The purpose
of these negotiations was to establish a central framework for
cooperation and coordination between the Jewish Agency and other
fund-raising groups. These discussions led to an agreement in
1971 whereby the governing bodies of the Jewish Agency were enlarged
not only to provide equal representation for Israeli and Diaspora
Jews but also to ensure a balance in geographical representation.
The reconstitution helped to address the long-standing grievance
of non-Zionist and non-Israeli supporters of Israel that the Jewish
Agency was dominated by Israel-based Zionists.
Under the 1971 rearrangement, the WZO was separated in terms
of its functions, but not its leadership, from the Jewish Agency.
This was necessary because of the restrictive provision of the
United States tax code pertaining to contributions and gifts.
Those of its activities that were "political" or otherwise questionable
from a tax-exemption standpoint had to be grouped separately and
placed under the WZO. The organization was directed to "continue
as the organ of the Zionist movement for the fulfillment of Zionist
programs and ideals," but its operations were to be confined mainly
to the Diaspora. Among the main functions of the WZO after 1971
were Jewish education, Zionist organizational work, information
and cultural programs, youth work, external relations, rural development,
and the activities of the Jewish National Fund. For the most part,
these functions were financed by funds funneled through the Jewish
Agency, which continued to serve as the main financial arm of
the WZO. However, because of United States tax law stipulations,
funds allocated for the WZO by the Jewish Agency were required
to come from those collected by Keren HaYesod (Israel Foundation
Fund--see Glossary), the agency's financial arm in countries other
than the United States.
The Jewish Agency's task was not only to coordinate various fund-raising
institutions but also to finance such programs as immigration
and land settlement and to assist immigrants in matters of housing,
social welfare, education, and youth care. The United Jewish Appeal
(UJA, sometimes designated the United Israel Appeal) raised the
agency's funds in the United States. In the 1980s, contributions
and gifts from the United States usually accounted for more than
two-thirds of the total revenue of the Jewish Agency. In 1988
American Jews donated US$357 million to Israel through the UJA.
The Jewish National Fund was the land-purchasing arm of the WZO.
It dealt mainly with land development issues such as reclamation,
afforestation, and road construction in frontier regions. Keren
HaYesod provided partial funding for programs, which were implemented
in close cooperation with the Jewish Agency and various government
Data as of December 1988