Gantz, Lapid and Liberman lobby Jewish Agency selection committee

Three recommendation letters for Omer Yankelevich, Roby Spiegel and Ruth Calderon were handed to the Jewish Agency chairmanship selection committee.

The Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
The Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Jewish Agency chairmanship selection committee received three recommendation letters for candidates from three coalition party heads in recent days, but none from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wrote supporting former MK Ruth Calderon, and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman endorsed Belgian businessman and Jewish leader Roby Spiegel.

But members of the committee said the longest and most passionate letter came from Defense Minister Benny Gantz in favor of his confidante, former Diaspora Affairs minister Omer Yankelevich.

"This is a brave, intelligent woman who is both orthodox and pluralistic," Gantz wrote. "I see Ms. Yankelevich as being perfectly capable of leading a substantial array of efforts to bridge the divide and create a genuine sense of true partnership. This ability had been well proven in the field during Ms. Yankelevich's office as Minister of Diaspora Affairs inside the unity government. Former Minister Yankelevich is warmly accepted by wide circles inside both camps of Israel's political map, as well as various circles in the Jewish world – from progressive liberals to strict orthodox – as she worked with all of them while deploying universal collaboration. Electing Ms. Yankelevich will grant Jewish Agency's status the much-needed consensus among all Jewish communities."   

Sources close to Gantz said he has made clear to the selection committee that it would be helpful to have the Agency connected to the same party as the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, which is headed by Blue and White Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. They noted that when Yankelevitch headed the Diaspora Ministry, she succeeded in getting its budget tripled, thanks in part to her connection to Gantz.

Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich  poses for a picture in her office in Jerusalem, on November 26, 2020.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich poses for a picture in her office in Jerusalem, on November 26, 2020. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Lapid, by contrast, reiterated in a radio interview on Thursday that he has wanted the Zionist institutions closed for many years.

A Ynet report last week speculated that Gantz may even tell Lapid that if Yankelevitch does not receive the Agency post, the rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office that is set for August 2023 would not happen.

Calderon and Spiegel were set to be interviewed for the job on Thursday night. Calderon and Lapid’s associates vigorously denied a report by veteran political analyst Menachem Rahat that Calderon was quitting the race, with one Lapid associate calling it “fake news.”

“It is absolutely wrong,” Calderon said. “It is libelous.”

The other four remaining candidates have already been interviewed twice by the agency’s 10-member selection committee: Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, and former MKs Danny Danon, Michael Oren and Michal Cotler-Wunsh. The committee must make a choice before next month’s meeting of the agency’s board of governors.