Barring a dramatic turn of events, it would take a miracle to prevent Russia from shuttering the Jewish Agency’s operations on its soil.
Israel may delude itself otherwise, but the Russian effort to curb aliyah to Israel is well on its way and the order came from the highest office in the land. This is not the whim of a junior functionary—it is an official Russian initiative directed by the Kremlin and fueled by its economic worldview.
Over the two decades of his rule, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pursued one goal: To regain his country’s superpower status and challenge the world order that took shape following the defeat of the USSR in the Cold War.
Everything has been directed towards this objective. Russia’s rich energy resources were exported to the West in order to make it dependent on Russia. The generous revenues from the sale of oil and gas were then channeled into the accumulation of military power, and in part funneled to the public’s benefit, so that the gradual denial of freedoms would pass without mass protests.
Now, after 20 years of careful preparations, Putin has decided that the conditions for the great clash of civilizations are right. With the ascension to power of Western European leaders he saw as weak—including U.S. President Joe Biden—he gave the order to the Russian army to invade Ukraine in an attempt to quickly topple the Kyiv regime and forge westward.
For all its brutality, the ongoing war in Ukraine is only the tip of the iceberg. But the tremendous changes brewing underneath did not really interest the public in the free world—or in Israel—so long as they did not have a direct impact on us, for example in the area of immigration.
These changes are increasingly turning Russia into a mobilized dictatorship reminiscent of the Soviet Union. As such, the fall of a new iron curtain is only a matter of time.
A dictatorship cannot allow organizations like the Jewish Agency to operate freely on its soil. Its internal logic demands the extermination of every vestige of freedom, especially if this freedom seeks to shape Jewish identity or promote leaving Russia for Israel. What we see as making aliyah to the Jewish homeland is perceived by Putin as a plot to pilfer human capital—engineers, software developers, entrepreneurs and future soldiers—from his country.
The Jewish Agency will not be the only Jewish organization required to stop its operations in Russia. Other organizations like Israeli cultural centers, which are engaged in spreading information about Israel and teaching Hebrew, will be shuttered.
This, however, will be just the prelude. By choosing a confrontation with the free world, Putin set his country on the path of escalation with Israel, and en route to the inevitable conflict, it is probable that most of the achievements built with great effort over 30 years of Israel-Russia diplomatic relations will be gradually undone.
It would take a miracle to stop it. But if the Russians come to their senses and refrain from further escalation until a new government is established, perhaps it will still be possible to undo this evil decree.
Ariel Bulshtein is a journalist, translator, lecturer and lawyer.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.