Intelligence Services Minister Elazar Stern, who was Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s preferred candidate for Jewish Agency chairman, on Tuesday said he is quitting the race following a scandal over his shredding of complaints in the IDF.
Stern was set to be interviewed by the 10-member Jewish Agency chairmanship selection committee on Wednesday, but he opted out in the wake of the scandal.
“In the current atmosphere, I do not find it right at this time to present myself for election as chairman of the Jewish Agency,” he announced on Facebook. “I do so with clean hands and with a full heart, and I know all of my years and past actions are evidence of my true ways.
Stern said he apologized to anyone who was hurt by his words and the interpretation given to them and to his family.“I will continue to act to the best of my ability, wherever I am, to secure a better future for the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” read his statement.
Sources close to Stern said he had no intention of quitting the Knesset or his cabinet position. They said Lapid had given him his full support and did not pressure him to quit.
One of his opponents for the agency chairmanship responded that the heads of the government may have to decide on a new candidate before the decision is set to be announced in two weeks at the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting.
“This is a huge blow for Bennett, after he put his weight behind Stern,” the candidate said.
Eight candidates remain in the race: former MKs Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Danny Danon, Uzi Dayan, Michael Oren and Omer Yankelevitch; ANU Museum head Irina Nevzlin; Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum; and Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats of Bar-Ilan University.
Nevzlin and Danon are scheduled to have their formal job interviews for the post on Wednesday.
The head of the selection committee, World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel, on Tuesday told The Jerusalem Post Conference he respected Stern’s decision.
“I know that the committee, which I am honored to lead, will select the right candidate to head the Jewish Agency,” he said.