Vilna’i says Labor not a sinking ship

Deputy defense minister will compete in race against incumbent JNF/KKL head Effi Stenzler to be held by secret ballot in the party's executive committee.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 5, 2011 04:33
2 minute read.
MATAN VILNA’I. We’re the neighborhood bully. You don’t want to start with us. (

Vilnai 311. (photo credit: (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i, who announced his candidacy on Monday for the chairmanship of the Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemet L’Israel, rejected accusations on Tuesday that he was trying to flee from a floundering party.

Vilna’i will compete in three weeks in a race against incumbent JNF/KKL head Effi Stenzler that will be held by secret ballot in the Labor executive committee. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon will not run in Labor, but still hopes the courts will give him the job as the candidate of the united Labor/Meretz/Reform faction in the World Zionist Organization.

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Like Simhon before him, when Vilna’i announced his candidacy, he was immediately attacked by Labor MKs who said he was only pursuing the post out of fear that he would not be re-elected to the Knesset due to polls predicting Labor’s seats falling from 12 to six.

“I don’t think Labor is a sinking ship,” Vilna’i said.

“The party is in a difficult situation and there are too many conflicts about its future, but I have no doubt that it will overcome its problems and rise again.”

Vilna’i, 66, stressed that even though if elected he would quit the Knesset, he would remain active in Labor and would not rule out running with the party for the Knesset again in the future.

He spent Tuesday calling Labor executive committee members to ask for their votes.

A former IDF deputy chief of General Staff, Vilna’i was first elected to the Knesset in 1999. His father, Ze’ev, was a world renowned geographer, an expert on the land of Israel, and was a longtime member of the board of the KKL.

“Heading the KKL would close a circle for me, because of my father and because when I finished the army, my first job was heading a touring company,” Vilna’i said.

“Especially after the Carmel fire, we see how important the organization is for Israel’s future.”

Asked how he would handle a job in which English would be his main language, Vilna’i responded in English: “I don’t have a problem with English. I can do it. I am used to working in English.”


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