yossi beilin 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
For the first time since the state was founded, no representative of Meretz or its forerunner, Mapam, will hold a portfolio on the executive of the World Zionist Organization, due to decisions made for political reasons by party chairman Yossi Beilin, charged outgoing WZO Hagshama Department head Haim Hayet on Sunday.
Beilin decided to give up the leadership of the agency's Hagshama Department -which Hayet created in 1997 and has run ever since - in hopes of receiving the chairmanship of the WZO's Israel Committee. But the leadership of the committee remains in question, pending technical negotiations between WZO and Jewish Agency officials, and at least in the meantime Meretz has been shut out of lucrative WZO coalition negotiations.
Hayet won a June 18 election in the Meretz council to serve as the party's representative on the executive. But Beilin decided to ignore the election results and instead recommend that the Jewish Agency's advise and consent committee approve his own candidate for the post, Yoav Regional Council head Rany Trainin, a leader of the United Kibbutz Movement lobby that is very powerful in Meretz.
Beilin's opponents in Meretz charged that he made the moves because of his opposition to the existence of the WZO, in order to find favor with the UKM and to avenge Hayet's support for his opponent in the latest Meretz leadership race, MK Ran Cohen.
"He did it because he has problems inside the party and he needed the support of the leadership of the kibbutz movement," Hayet said. "He doesn't understand the difference between a department and a committee, and he doesn't appreciate the accomplishments of the Hagshama Department."
Agency officials said that department heads get to run their departments with little supervision and allocate their budgets as they desire, while committee heads have no real power. Unlike departments, committees are run by their director-generals, who are appointed by the Jewish Agency's director-general and not by the committee's head.
The Hagshama Department, which will now be run by Gael Greenwald of the national-religious World Mizrahi, focuses on inspiring Zionist activism in 18- to 30-year-olds around the world. The department led the way to the formation of birthright and Masa by sending volunteers from its university student division to college campuses to encourage students to come to Israel and impact its future.
It also started a trend of dispatching Israeli cultural performers to campuses to send a message that Israel was more than politics.
Beilin said he had decided to pursue the Israel Committee instead of the Hagshama Department because it controls important issues such as the Partnership 2000 program that creates bridges between Israeli development towns and Diaspora communities. He denied any personal vendetta against Hayet.
"I think the Israel Committee is an important upgrade," Beilin said. "We won't lose anything by not controlling the Hagshama Department. Meretz allocated to every party's causes when it controlled the department, and so will Mizrahi."
Meretz secretary-general Yaron Shur said Beilin preferred the Israel Committee because its budget was NIS 60 million, some 20 times more than the Hagshama Department's. He said he had no doubt that when the agency-WZO negotiations are over, Meretz will end up in charge of the committee.
Beilin said that Meretz's lacking a portfolio, at least temporarily, was "not a tragedy" because the WZO was an "embarrassing anachronism that should be closed because it has become obsolete."