The world's most influential Jews: 11-20

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
June 6, 2011 13:15

Ron Prosor, Michael Oren, Eric Cantor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Daniel Shapiro, Malcolm Hoenlein, Tzipi Livni, Shai Agassi, Ester Levanon, Moshe Kantor.




Tzipi Livni at a live Q&A session, Sunday.

tzipi livni_311. (photo credit:Idan Gross )

11. RON PROSOR
Israeli ambassador-designate to the UN


There is no bigger world stage than the United Nations, and more than a few larger-than-life Israeli politicians have left their mark there. Abba Eban, who served there from 1949 to 1959, and whose eloquence at the UN swayed world opinion during the Six Day War, when he spoke there as Israel’s foreign minister; Chaim Herzog, who memorably tore up the “Zionism is Racism” resolution at the podium in 1975; and Binyamin Netanyahu, who largely launched his political career through a stint there from 1984 to 1988.

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And now it’s Ron Prosor’s turn, taking over at the UN in a few weeks’ time, just as that body will be asked to recognize a Palestinian state. The arguments he will present in the Security Council or to the General Assembly may not alter the predetermined positions of various governments around the world, but they will likely have an impact and influence on millions of people – fair-minded people – around the world who really don’t know this story that well, who have not yet made up their minds, and who may hear his words on CNN, FOX News, or the BBC and be persuaded.

The UN provides a loud megaphone if the envoy chooses – and feels comfortable enough – to use it. Some past Israeli ambassadors to the UN have not – preferring instead to do their diplomatic work quietly in the UN corridors, behind closed doors, away from the spotlight. Prosor, born in 1958 and currently ambassador in London, is built from different cloth: he is not the working-quietly type. It’s a matter of style.

Unapologetic, fluent and articulate in English, a career diplomat who has served in Washington and Bonn, and been the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman and director-general, Prosor is confident enough in his knowledge of the issues, in his abilities, and in his stature in the ministry to go the UN and see it for what it is: the best arena in the world to forcefully, and influentially, deliver Israel’s message.

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12. MICHAEL OREN
Ambassador to the US


As ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren is the face of Israel in Washington at a time when the Palestinians are seeking to isolate Israel diplomatically and break the strong ties between the two countries.

In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, Oren wrote that in the aftermath of regional popular revolts, “In Israel alone, the United States will not have to choose between upholding its democratic principles and pursuing its vital interests.”

In an opinion piece he published last month on the JTA website he wrote that the essence of Israel- US ties was that “your enemies are our enemies.

Those who seek to kill Americans also threaten us.

Your security is our security, just as our security is yours.

“We stand together against common threats, we strive together for common ideals, for security and peace. Together we uphold the biblical injunction ‘justice, justice, you shall pursue.’” Born in 1955 with the last name of Bornstein in upstate New York, Oren made aliya in 1979.

Prior to becoming ambassador in 2009, he was best known for his work as a Middle East scholar, historian and author. Two of his works were on the New York Times Best-Sellers list: Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present and Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

13. ERIC CANTOR US
House Majority Leader


Eric Cantor is not only Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives at a time when that chamber has become the main conduit through which Republicans are challenging US President Barack Obama. He is also the highestranking elected Jewish official in American history (assuming you give the second-in-command over 435 representatives more weight than a bevy of Jewish governors and senators).

And the 48-year-old Virginia Republican has not been shy about touting his Jewish heritage or his staunch support of Israel. His recent address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee won more ovations, cheers and enthusiasm than Obama’s speech to the group hours earlier. He told them of his own family’s story and the Jewish values that inspired him as well as his views on Israel and the Arab world.

Republicans are signaling that support for Israel could become a major campaign issue as the GOP looks to wrest the White House from Obama, and Cantor’s pronouncements on the subject are sure to be essential in crafting that strategy and response. And he is likely to extend his influence well beyond the Middle East as one of the few younger dynamic voices in the Republican Party leadership.


14. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ
US Democratic Congresswoman


Speaking at a recent B’nai B’rith reception honoring her tireless work to establish May as Jewish American Heritage Month, Debbie Wasserman Schultz noted that sometimes Jews like to speak sotto voce about the fact that they comprise some 10 percent of the elected members of Congress despite being less than 3% of the American public.

That, she told the audience, was not only unnecessary but counterproductive. The Florida representative had helped put Jewish American Heritage Month on the calendar so that the rest of the country could learn about the tremendous contribution Jews have made to the United States as a means to combat prejudice and bigotry.

Indeed, Wasserman Schultz, 44, doesn’t like to speak quietly about anything. Known for being willing to take on the opposition and come out swinging, she recently received a high-profile role championing her party in a sign of her national potential: chair of the Democratic National Committee.

US President Barack Obama himself noted her tenacity, remarking at his own White House reception for Jewish American Heritage Month that she was one of the driving forces behind the designation.

“Did somebody say ‘stand up’ to Debbie?” he asked after recognizing her, then joked about the diminutive size that contrasts with her stature: “A lot of fight in that little package.”

15. DANIEL SHAPIRO
Incoming US ambassador to Israel

The first shrewd step in Daniel Shapiro’s path to the US ambassadorship for one of the most sensitive postings in the American diplomatic constellation was to choose the right candidate for the 2008 presidential election. Shapiro signed up early as an adviser on Jewish outreach and Middle East policy with Barack Obama back when he was a first-term senator competing against the global Clinton brand.

A National Security Council staffer in the 1990s, Shapiro found himself in a surprisingly key role once many in the Jewish community became suspicious of Obama and his sympathies toward the Jewish state.

After helping the campaign garner 78 percent of the Jewish vote, Shapiro landed the plum role of NSC senior director on the Middle East and North Africa.

Following two years of tireless service putting out more fires than Smokey the Bear while managing the volatile personalities and politics of the contentious post well enough to retain the regard of all the major players, Shapiro, 41, was rewarded with the post of next US ambassador to Israel. The clout of the man in Tel Aviv has ebbed and flowed over the years of US diplomacy in the Middle East, but having independent relationships with the White House and prior relationships with the important figures on every side will only enhance Shapiro’s role.

16. MALCOLM HOENLEIN
Presidents Conference head


As executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the coordinating body for 52 American Jewish associations, Malcolm Hoenlein has met with many American and international leaders on behalf of organized US Jewry.

One of his meetings, though, was shrouded in secrecy. In December, Hoenlein met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus during what he said was a humanitarian mission which was not on behalf of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Hoenlein, 67, is frequently quoted in the US media on issues related to the Jewish community and Israel, and helped organize the National Solidarity Rally for Israel in Washington in April 2002. When tensions between the US and Israel erupted last year, Hoenlein publicly urged the Obama administration to do more to mend relations with Israel and US Jews. In March 2010, he said, “The outward appearances have been perceived and described in much of the media in very negative terms, and I would hope that’s something the administration would address… I would hope they would take advantage of every opportunity to set the record straight.”



17. TZIPI LIVNI
Leader of Kadima


Kadima leader Tzipi Livni belongs on a list of the 50 most influential Jews of the year largely due to her potential.

Currently, her impact as opposition leader is negligible. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government has not lost a vote in the Knesset since it was formed in March 2009.

Livni has steadfastly refused overtures to join Netanyahu’s coalition that she believes were never truly sincere. Even with challenges to Israel’s security and legitimacy ahead, the chances of a nationalunity government being formed only decrease as the official date of the next election in 2013 approaches.

Meanwhile, Livni remains the untarnished alternative waiting on a white horse for Netanyahu to do or say something that would make the public want to boot him out and bring her in.

That possibility took a hit two weeks ago when Netanyahu emerged from his clash with US President Barack Obama stronger politically.

Livni might have been harmed by her own performance in Washington where she attacked Netanyahu and appeared to blame him for the dispute with Obama. Her AIPAC speech with its refrain “inaction is not an option” was a sharp contrast from her address the year before where she opened by saying it was the wrong time and place to speak as opposition leader so she would instead speak as a regular Israeli.

Livni was born in 1958 to former Irgun members Sara and future MK Eitan Livni. She served in the Mossad for four years and was a lawyer before entering the Knesset in 1999. She was minister of foreign affairs, justice, immigrant absorption, agriculture, regional cooperation, and construction and housing.

She defeated MK Shaul Mofaz to become Kadima head in 2008 and led the party to 28 seats in the 2009 election. Livni is married to Naftali Spitzer and is the mother of two boys.

18. SHAI AGASSI
CEO of Better Place


Shai Agassi, 43, is the founder and CEO of Better Place, which is launching infrastructure for electric car networks around the world, beginning with Israel and Denmark. The electric Renault Fluence Z.E. is slated to go on sale here in August, so customers will be able to make use of the company’s charging network and battery switch stations by the end of the year.

In response to being chosen by The Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world, Agassi said: “I’m honored and humbled by the recognition of the important work that we’re doing in Israel and around the world. When we announced Israel as our first market a bit more than three years ago, we knew that Israel had the opportunity to be the light unto the world that illuminates our vision for a world no longer dependent on oil.

“That vision is about to become reality in Israel later this year, and we’re thankful for the tremendous support that we’ve received from the community here and around the world.”

19. ESTER LEVANON
CEO of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange


Ester Levanon was appointed to head the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) in June 2006, the month before Israel became involved in a two-month war with the country that shares her name. Sadly, she is all-too-familiar with Israel’s many wars – born in 1946, two years before the state’s establishment, her father was killed in the War of Independence and her younger half-brother fell a quarter-century later in the Yom Kippur War.

Levanon’s own career has been inspiring for women in the business community. In 1973, aged just 27, she established and then managed the Israeli Security Service’s computer division, and in 1986 joined TASE. She also holds an MSc in mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in 1998 attended the Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.

Since her appointment as CEO Levanon has overseen TASE’s transformation into a fully automated exchange, upgrading it into one of the world’s most advanced stock exchanges as well as one of the few that offers fully automated trading in securities, bonds, T-bills and derivatives alongside fully automated paperless clearing and settlement.

She spoke to The Jerusalem Post about which direction she sees the TASE heading.


20. MOSHE KANTOR
President of the European Jewish Congress

Wherever anti-Semitism appears, Moshe Kantor will be there raising the battle cry.

Since he became the president of the European Jewish Congress in 2007, the 57-year-old Russianborn businessman who made his fortune in the chemical industry has used the position to lash out at the enemies of the Jewish people and has done so with unrelenting zeal.

Fashion designer John Galliano, Danish director Lars Von Trier and other individuals who have recently made casual and less casual anti-Semitic remarks have felt the lash of his tongue.

Kantor’s leadership of the European Jewish Congress and the money from his own purse that he invested supporting Jewish causes have helped propel it forward. He spends much of his time meeting with European leaders in various capitals, advocating on behalf of issues of relevance to Israel and the Jewish people. He has played an extremely active role in the fight against the delegitimization of Israel, anti-Semitism and the proscription of shehita.

Kantor supports the Jewish revival in Europe and serves as a conduit between the European Jewish community and the European political and religious leadership.

In his role as president of the Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, he has also assembled the world’s greatest experts on nuclear proliferation to warn against an Iranian nuclear program.

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