MK questions appointment of diplomat Eran to WJC

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
December 15, 2006 04:25
2 minute read.

The unilateral appointment of Israel's ambassador to the European Union to head the Israel office of the World Jewish Congress the day after he completes his tenure in the Foreign Ministry has been questioned by MK Benny Elon. Oded Eran, a career diplomat with four decades of foreign service, is scheduled to take up his posting at the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem on January 1, just one day after completing his tenure as ambassador to the EU. Elon, of the National Union-National Religious Party, wrote to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the Civil Service Commissioner on the issue. "It appears that Mr. Eran carried out negotiations and signed a contract with the World Jewish Congress while he was still serving in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Elon wrote in his December 13 letter. Citing an article in The Jerusalem Post last month about the tempest the appointment has caused in the WJC, Elon asked Livni if there was no conflict of interests in the two positions, and if a cooling-off period was not needed for such a transition. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman had told the Post at the time that the ministry's legal adviser has determined that Eran did not require a cooling-off period between jobs, even though they both will deal directly with the ministry, since his new work will be in Israel and not in Brussels where he is currently stationed. Eran has declined comment on the issue due to his current status as a Foreign Ministry official. Eran, 65, has previously served as ambassador to Jordan, and then headed the ministry's team in the failed peace talks with the Palestinians between 1999 and 2001. The appointment of Eran to the posting has caused a fierce - and as yet unresolved - struggle between the Jerusalem and New York offices of the organization over control of the Israel office. The appointment is seen by members of the Israeli board as an attempt by the organization's New York-based secretary-general Stephen Herbits, who appointed Eran, to unilaterally bypass the Jerusalem office from New York with a hand-picked appointee who will serve as his personal emissary. In a tense face-off, the Israeli board of the organization is standing firmly behind its Israel director, Bobby Brown, who appears to be on a collision course with Eran. Brown declined comment for this article. The New York office has called Eran "uniquely qualified" for the posting. In the meantime, the organization's New York headquarters has temporarily frozen funding to its Jerusalem office following the dispute, citing "a major cash-flow shortage," which, it said, will be "resolved shortly." In a direct rebuff, the chairman of the organization's Israeli board, MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima), has called the two-month-old freeze in funding "political sanctions," as part of a attempt to coerce them to accept Eran's appointment. In an effort to reach a compromise on the issue, the organization has set up an internal committee, headed by the chairman of the group's governing board, Mendel Kaplan, which is trying to work out a solution between the New York and Jerusalem offices, an official in the organization said Thursday. A second committee is working to reach a similar solution to a parallel conflict which erupted between the New York and Europe offices of the organization, the official said.


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