(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Four Labor Party candidates will face off on Monday in a race for the chairmanship of the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael, which partners in Israel with the Jewish National Fund.
The KKL post is considered attractive because the organization controls much of the state’s land and invests massive amounts of money in projects across the country.
KKL World Chairman Efi Stenzler will be challenged by Labor MKs Nachman Shai and Dani Atar as well as by Yeroham Mayor Michael Biton in a vote that will take place among 1,800 Labor convention delegates as well as delegates from around the world to next week’s World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem.
Stenzler is strong in the Labor convention and has his international allies as well after years of projects he developed in the post. Shai proved himself as director-general of the Jewish Federations of North America in Israel, director-general of the Science Ministry, head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and in the Knesset. He has maintained close ties with Jewish leaders around the world.
Atar has been in the Knesset for six months but before that was head of the Ma’aleh Gilboa Regional Council, which has partnered with Jewish federations in Connecticut. He controls Labor’s moshav sector, which gives him power among Labor activists.
Biton has offered to take the KKL chairmanship on a voluntary basis while remaining mayor of Yeroham. Former Labor chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich has endorsed him, while current party chairman Isaac Herzog has refused to take a side.
MK Eitan Cabel also considered running but decided to keep his post as chairman of the Knesset Economics Committee.
Labor will receive the chairmanship of the KKL in an as yet unsigned massive political deal in the World Zionist Organization ahead of Tuesday’s World Zionist Congress. The deal will bring all parties in the WZO into a governing coalition.
Earlier, Labor guaranteed it would receive the KKL post by reaching an agreement with the Likud and the religious-Zionist World Mizrachi grouping behind the back of the Reform Movement, which traditionally has joined Labor in one faction. That deal allowed Mizrachi’s Avraham Duvdevani to remain head of the WZO with World Likud Chairman Yaakov Hagoel, who is Orthodox, joining the Conservative Movement’s David Breakstone as Duvdevani’s co-vice chairmen.
Reform Movement sources said they were outraged by Labor’s behavior. But after protesting initially, they will still end up joining the coalition.
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky (Likud) is not connected to the deal, because he still has two years left in his term. But he may receive a new deputy as part of the deal.
New parties that entered the Knesset will receive roles in the WZO. Yesh Atid brokered a partnership with the Conservative Movement in an effort to show the party is centrist.
Kulanu will receive a high-ranking post in the KKL.
It was initially thought that the post would go to former minister Eli Aflalo, but instead the job is now expected to be given to former Likud and Yisrael Beytenu minister Uzi Landau.