The World Jewish Congress Israel division split Sunday over whom to elect as chairman.
Half the delegates voted for MK Shai Hermesh of Kadima, while the other half walked out rather than vote. They said they were concerned that it could be a conflict of interest to have an MK head the nonprofit organization since its main funder, Edgar Bronfman, has several business interests in Israel.
Hermesh countered that the Knesset has already approved him and other sitting MKs to head nonprofit organizations.
The WJC Israel branch - one of five continental representative groups - chooses its leader in accordance with the number of Knesset seats of each party. New elections had to be held following the new government that came into office in the spring.
The two sides were so divided following the meeting Sunday that they could not agree on the basic details of what had happened. According to Hermesh, a majority of the delegates - those from Kadima, the Gil Pensioners' Party, Shas and Israel Beiteinu - elected him chairman.
According to the other bloc - Likud, Labor, Meretz and the National Union-National Religious Party - the election was not valid because the sitting chairman, Mati Droblas of Likud, postponed the vote after a raucous argument over whether an MK could serve as chairman. Hermesh argued that the legal adviser to the organization said elections had to be held that evening; Droblas claimed that the adviser made no such ruling and that in the meantime he remained chairman.
Some of the participants are threatening legal action over the dispute, but Hermesh said he wasn't deterred. He added that he was planning to lead the delegation to France in two weeks for the next meeting of the WJC.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is set to give the keynote speech at the event, and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations and Marc Otte, the EU's Special Representative to the Middle East Peace Process, are also expected to address the congress.