MOSHE KANTOR (right) is presented with the National Order of the Legion of Honor by France’s President François Hollande..
(photo credit: EREZ LICHTFELD)
Elections for the President of the European Jewish Congress have been moved up by the better part of a year, with President Moshe Kantor set to stand for reelection in January, rather than late 2016 as originally planned.
The snap elections, which will take place during the continental organization’s recently rescheduled General Assembly in Brussels on January 26, were not publicized on the organization’s website nor announced to the press.
Several community leaders from Europe, speaking on condition of anonymity, were quoted by Israeli Russian-language news website IzRus as saying that they believed the elections were moved up to preempt World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder from backing a candidate to oppose Kantor.
According to Michael Jankelowitz, a former spokesman to the international media at The Jewish Agency for Israel and a regular commentator on trends among European Jewry, sources in Europe have indicated that “Kantor’s big fear is that Lauder will be able to find an attractive candidate that will tip the scale and take Kantor’s position away from him.”
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Jankelowitz said that he believes such “conduct poses a threat to the legitimacy of the entire elections process, which could generate legal problems later on.”
“Simultaneously with bringing the elections forward, Kantor also invited representatives of the Jewish communities to an event of the EJF [European Jewish Fund], allegedly in order to solve the communities’ current financial issues.
However, there are sources within the communities that claim Kantor may use this event to seize control of the congress, and that he will use it for the same political purpose – to ensure the Jewish communities’ support of his candidacy,” he said.
“Kantor is exploiting the communities’ crucial need for financial support to promise them monetary assistance in return for their support of him,” Jankelowitz recalled Jewish sources in Europe telling him.
However, sources within Jewish communities who spoke with the Post said they did not believe that to be the case.
Speaking off the record, one senior community official in Western Europe stated that the General Assembly had been moved for “scheduling issues, not for political issues,” and that enough time remained “if someone wanted to make a serious campaign.”
Since it is certain that Kantor will be reelected, the official added, the real question is whether he will stand for election for head of the World Jewish Congress later this year.
“I am not aware of any changes to the timetable, but as about two months’ notice was given regarding the elections and the procedure for nominating, I do not see any basis for a suggestion that there is an intention to prevent anyone standing,” said Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
“I am not aware of any discontent with Moshe Kantor, and do not feel any myself, as he has been a strong leader.”
Despite a great deal of support for Kantor voiced to the Post, one figure associated with the European Jewish Congress felt differently, telling the Post on condition of anonymity that he believed that “Kantor is as democratic as Putin.”
Asked if the date change was political, an EJC spokeswoman replied with an emphatic negative.
During the Congress’s executive committee meeting in November, Vice President Ariel Musicant proposed that the General Assembly be moved up to January in order to address “urgent matters that need attending, like immigrants into Europe, the security of the communities, the rise of anti-Semitism, EU labeling and the crisis with relations with Israel,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the intent was to move the GA to better deal with the issues, rather than to move up the elections. “There was a vote and it was unanimous by all representatives,” she added.