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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Race begins to succeed Isaac Herzog at Jewish Agency

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Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog has not yet declared his candidacy in the June 2 presidential election, but because he is considered the front-runner in that race, speculation has already begun over who could succeed him in the top post in the Jewish world.

Soon after Herzog would be elected president, a 10-member selection committee would be chosen by the Agency’s Board of Governors. The support of nine of the 10 members would be needed for approval, followed by the confirmation of the full board. 

The selection committee would be led by World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel and include four more WZO members, among them representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements. There would also be two representatives of Keren Hayesod and three of the Jewish Federations of North America, including Board of Governors chairman Michael Siegal. 

Siegal, whose term was recently extended, would come to Israel and oversee the process of choosing a successor to Herzog. The successor would serve a full four-year term and not just complete the final year of the four-year term of Herzog, who was elected in June 2018 to replace Natan Sharansky. 

Possible candidates whose names have been raised by members of the board of governors include Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, former New York consul-general Dani Dayan, former ambassadors to the United Nations Ron Prosor and Danny Danon, former MKs Nachman Shai and Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahum and Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, who retired from his post as executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies on May 1.

The name of former ambassador to the US Ron Dermer had also been raised, but he essentially took his name out of the running with critical comments about American Jews that he delivered on Sunday at the Makor Rishon newspaper’s conference on Israel-Diaspora relations.

Dermer said Israel should prioritize the “passionate and unequivocal” support of evangelical Christians over that of US Jews, who he said are “disproportionately among our critics.”

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if(window.location.pathname.indexOf(“656089”) != -1){console.log(“hedva connatix”);document.getElementsByClassName(“divConnatix”)[0].style.display =”none”;}The choice could depend on who will be prime minister when the new chairman will be chosen. If it’s Benjamin Netanyahu, he could pressure the American Jewish leaders to select a candidate from Likud. 

If Yamina leader Naftali Bennett is prime minister, he could choose to rule out candidates he has fought with in the past, like Dayan and Stern. Bennett could also purposely allow Yair Lapid, who would be alternate prime minister, to try to persuade the Jewish leaders to give the post to Stern and in return Bennett would seek other concessions from Lapid. Bennett has good relations with Steinitz and Yadlin. 

The coalition agreements that would form a new government could end up allocating the chairmanship of both the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod. The term of current Keren Hayesod chairman Sam Grundwerg was set to end but was extended by 60 days as part of a court settlement.     

To be chosen Agency chairman, the candidate must have good ties with the Reform and Conservative movements, who will have a lot of say in choosing who gets the post.

Dayan built ties with the pluralist movements during his time in New York. President Reuven Rivlin said at the Makor Rishon Conference that what Dayan accomplished could be a model. Being born in Argentina and fluent in Spanish could also be an asset for the Latin American Jewish communities that often feel neglected.

Shai developed strong relations with the movement when he headed the Jewish Federations of North America’s office in Israel. He was strongly considered for the post before Herzog became a candidate.   

Danon has known the members of the Agency board for many years.

“It would be a tremendous platform from which to serve,” Cotler-Wunsh said. “It would be an honor and responsibility to serve the Israeli public and Jewish people, always and in particular at this historic junction in time.”


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