Chairman of the Prize Committee
Speaker of Knesset
Yuli (Yoel) Edelstein was recently elected as Speaker of the 19th Knesset. Prior to this appointment, MK Edelstein served as Israel's Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs in Israel 32nd government. As Israel's leading advocate and spokesman, he was responsible for communicating and defending the Israeli Government position to the global community. His top priority has been improving Israel's image abroad and fighting the assault on Israel's legitimacy and global anti-Semitism. In order to achieve that goal, he has initiated innovative citizen-based diplomacy programs that utilize ordinary Israelis to represent the country in social media networks and when traveling abroad.
As the Government's main liaison to the Diaspora Jewish communities throughout the world, MK Edelstein was the leading advocate for building bridges and strengthening the relationship between Israelis and Jews throughout the world. He believes that Israel – Diaspora relations are vital to the future of Israel and the Jewish people.
Yuli Edelstein was a Member of the 18th Knesset representing the Likud Party and has been serving as a MK since 1996, when he was elected to represent the Yisrael B'Aliya party. That party, which he co-founded, served as the voice of the new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. A new immigrant himself and former "Russian Refuesnik," Yuli has dedicated himself to integrating and serving the over one million immigrants from the FSU since 1991. He served as Minister of Immigrant Absorption from 1996 – 1999 and led the fight for increased budget in order to make the transition to Israeli life easier for the many new arrivals. In particular, he initiated the construction of living hostels and job placement services aimed at workforce integration. Many of the programs he established then are still actively helping new Israelis.
Yuli served as Deputy Speaker of Knesset from 1999 to 2003 representing Yisrael B'Aliya and then the Likud after it merged with Yisrael B'Aliya. From 1999 – 2006, he served as Chairman of the Golan Heights caucus within the Knesset. MK Edelstein and his parliamentary associates successfully protected the Golan Heights from becoming a bargaining chip during peace negotiations. He also served as Chairman of the Israel-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Association from 1999 until he was appointed a Minister in 2009. In addition, he established a Parliamentary caucus to resolve the issue of conversion in Israel.
Named to the 10th spot of the 2011 Jerusalem Post list of the 50 most influential Jews in the world, he began his public service career as a Russian Refuesnik serving three years in a Soviet labor camp on trumped-up charges of drug possession. He was actively involved in Zionist activities and secretly taught Hebrew in Moscow before immigrating with his family to Gush Etzion in 1987. Born in Czernowitz in 1958, Yuli studied in the Institute for Foreign Languages in Moscow. During his fourth year there, in 1979, he applied to immigrate to Israel – an application that was rejected by authorities. Today, he lives with his family in the Gush Etzion community of Neve Daniel.