Administered through the progressive New Israel Fund, the funding has supported organizations working to advance civil and human rights, help Arab citizens in Israel achieve equality, and promote Israeli-Palestinian peace. While progressive NGOs in Israel have been subject to increasing political attacks of late, Ford Israel Fund director Aaron Back told the Forward that the foundation's commitments to Israeli programming had never been open-ended, and that the decision to not renew the funding was due to a broad reassessment of the foundation's priorities rather than political considerations. NIF and other NGOs supported by the foundation have come under fire in the past year from Israeli politicians on the right as well as organizations such as NGO Monitor and Im Tirtzu, which are sharply critical of nonprofit organizations that question aspects of Israeli policy.
The announcement notwithstanding, Back said he considers the foundation's program in Israel to have been a success, thanks to the support it provided to organizations, including NIF, that have a "hugely important voice." He also told the Forward that organizations benefitting from Ford funding will survive the withdrawal of those funds, and that he plans to spend the next two years helping prepare them to secure alternate funding sources. While the loss of funds is expected to have a significant impact on NIF, it will not affect its core giving, which totals between $10 million and $15 million annually.
According to the Foundation Center's Map of Cross-Border Giving, Israel is the eighth-largest international recipient of grants made by U.S. foundations since 2003, having received $392 million from 367 grantmakers. Ford has contributed $40 million of that funding, making it a key player in the world of Israeli NGOs.
"The initiative wound down successfully," said Ford Foundation director of communications Alfred Ironside, who added that the foundation will explore how best to contribute toward democracy and development in the region going forward. "NIF has grown into a robust and capable independent foundation, and we look forward to seeing it continue to thrive."