The Jewish Agency chairmanship selection committee will convene on Monday afternoon to determine which candidates will be the finalists for the coveted post, sources on the committee said Thursday.
The departure of Elazar Stern from the race has left eight candidates: Bar-Ilan University law professor Yaffa Zilbershats, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, ANU museum director Irina Nevzlin and former MKs Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Danny Danon, Uzi Dayan, Michael Oren and Omer Yankelevitch.
The sources said the most likely scenario is that there will be four finalists, at least two of whom will be women. This could be complicated if Foreign Minister Yair Lapid presents a new candidate by the 4 p.m. Sunday deadline. The committee set that deadline for him when it rejected his request for a delay in choosing the next chairman.
Sources on the selection committee said it was important to them to show Lapid that the government would not control their choice. The committee wants to finalize the process in time for the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting on October 24 to 26, ideally by the end of next week.
Lapid left Washington for Israel on Thursday evening and will work on finding a candidate over the weekend, after names like former foreign minister Tzipi Livni and former Haifa mayor Yona Yahav were raised.
One possibility is that Lapid would publicly or privately endorse one of the current candidates. Multiple candidates made efforts to become the government’s candidate following Stern’s departure, while others saw that status as a potential liability.
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (New Hope), a former colleague of Oren’s in the now-defunct Kulanu Party, said she would push for him among her fellow ministers.
One factor being considered more than before is that former ambassadors Oren and Danon have the experience and skills of being diplomats, notably the ability to be sensitive with their words – a skill that became more relevant following the Stern scandal. Hassan-Nahoum has also obtained diplomatic experience in her role in charge of foreign affairs for Jerusalem.
“Being Jewish Agency chairman requires diplomatic skills, because of its role in representing the Jewish people on key issues around the world,” Danon said. “That has nothing to do with Stern.”
Another development this week that could influence the race is that Nevzlin’s husband, Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, announced that he would challenge former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud leadership.
But a close confidant of Nevzlin who spoke to her said she believes her husband’s decision would have no impact whatsoever on the selection committee’s decision.