Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren’s status as the unofficial front-runner in the race to replace Natan Sharansky as head of the Jewish Agency took a hit on Monday, when the head of his Kulanu party, Moshe Kahlon, said he did not want Oren to go.
When The Jerusalem Post asked Kahlon at the Knesset about the possibility of Oren heading the agency, Kahlon replied: “But he is such an important deputy minister – why would we let him go?”
The Jewish Agency post belongs to the Likud under the World Zionist Organization agreement. It is possible that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and world Jewish leaders select Oren, Kulanu would have to compensate the Likud by giving up Oren’s deputy minister post.
Likud MK Nava Boker, who is a friend of Sara Netanyahu, said she would demand the post if there is a vacancy. Other backbench Likud MKs would also likely demand a promotion.
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who is minister of Diaspora affairs, said he would not interfere in the selection process. World Zionist Organization chairman Avraham Duvdevani, who is part of the selection committee, comes from the Mizrahi WZO faction, which is affiliated with Bayit Yehudi.
Bennett told the Post
at the Knesset that he would not demand that the agency chairmanship go to a religious Zionist candidate, a suggestion that had been made by Religious Zionists of America co-chairman Martin Oliner.
“What matters is not the kippa but the vision of strengthening relations between Israel and Diaspora Jews,” Bennett said. “It’s deeper than whether or not he wears a kippa.”
The head of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee, MK Avraham Neguise, who is from Ethiopia, said the question of whether the post should be given to an Ethiopian immigrant after being held by a Russian one should be posed to Netanyahu.
Likud MK Yehudah Glick endorsed Oren, who is the only MK besides Glick who was born in the US.
“Oren would do a good job,” Glick said. “He is very connected with the Diaspora communities. He speaks Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.”
The Agency Board of Directors has been meeting this week in Zichron Ya’acov as has the search committee looking for a successor to Sharansky, but no candidate has been recommended by the committee or by Netanyahu.
The next chance to appoint an agency chairman will be in June, when the board of directors reconvenes in Jerusalem.
“I expect a decision to be made in June among the usual suspects,” a source close to Netanyahu said.
Agency spokesman Yigal Palmor said the issue was not formally discussed at the board. “No name is currently under discussion,” an agency official said.