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Kohelet Policy Forum scales down activity due to funding crunch

One of its main donors, American billionaire Arthur Dantchik announced last summer that he would stop providing funds.

Protesters near the Kohelet Policy Forum office in Jerusalem in March 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon.
Protesters near the Kohelet Policy Forum office in Jerusalem in March 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon.

The Kohelet Policy Forum, the Jerusalem think tank that was catapulted into the public limelight because of the proposed judicial reforms in 2023, is scaling back a significant portion of its ongoing expenses, parting ways with dozens of staff members, and cutting support for other civil society organizations, the Israel Hayom newspaper has learned. 

According to the report, core teams will carry on with research on the relevant topics being discussed in Israeli society. 

The think tank found itself at the heart of political debate over the past year because some of the proposed judicial reforms were based on its work. It has been forced to downsize after one of its main donors, American billionaire Arthur Dantchik announced last summer that he would stop providing funds. He halted donations to several Israeli organizations, including the forum.

A source privy to the developments in the forum stated that since the outbreak of the Gaza war in October, most of the forum’s managerial backbone has been mobilized in the IDF reserves under emergency call-up notices and that its main activity revolved around assisting the war effort, focussing on national strategy in the political and economic contexts of achieving victory in the war.

In response, the Kohelet Policy Forum issued the following statement: “The scope of the forum’s activities has grown over the years, and we have been fortunate to establish new departments dealing with various policy issues, in which dozens of scholars operate. Since the Simchat Torah holiday [Oct. 7], the forum and its employees have been focused on contributing to the national collective effort.

“In light of recent events and the need for budget cuts, we were forced to part ways with several dear and talented employees. We believe that we will overcome this difficult period and even emerge stronger, in order to continue contributing to national sovereignty, individual freedom, and the separation of powers in the State of Israel.”

In 2023, with the outbreak of protests against the judicial reform, and after the spotlight was turned on the forum for supposedly advising Knesset Members promoting the reform behind the scenes, the forum became one of the central targets of protesting organizations.

Over the past year, the forum was attacked several times, including sit-ins at its offices and protests against it in Israel and abroad. The “Brothers in Arms” organization went as far as blocking the entrance to the forum’s offices with sandbags a few months ago, an act that drew criticism even from left-wing organizations.

In addition to demonstrations within Israel, many activists protested throughout the past year outside the offices of the organization’s senior donors in New York, causing embarrassment to the donors, who generally prefer to maintain their privacy and avoid exposure.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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