Zionist orgs demand changes to WZC coalition agreement

The organizations said that a new “wall-to-wall” coalition agreement was needed “in a spirit of peace and agreement” between all parties of the congress.

World Zionist Congress 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
World Zionist Congress 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In an unprecedented step, Zionist organizations with voting rights in the World Zionist Congress have strongly criticized the coalition agreement worked out by right-wing, religious-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox parties, and demanded changes to the deal to grant greater representation to progressive Jewish streams and to the other political factions in the congress.
In a letter to the current head of the World Zionist Organization Avraham Duvdevani and its deputy chair Yaakov Hagoel, the organizations said that a new “wall-to-wall” coalition agreement was needed “in a spirit of peace and agreement” between all parties of the congress.
The letter was sent by Maccabi World Union, Bnei Brith, the World Sephardi Federation, WIZO, Hadassah, Emunah and Na’amat following a meeting held on Monday to discuss the issue.
The development comes following the fierce opposition of the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) Jewish movements to the coalition agreement, who argued that it excluded their representatives from positions of influence, and actively sought the intervention of these Zionist groups.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Duvdevani, placed the blame for the crisis on the progressive Jewish denominations however, saying that he had made an equitable offer to them which granted them greater representation in the national institutions then the current agreement, but that the Reform and Masorti leaders had never responded to the offer.
Director of the Reform Movement in Israel Rabbi Gilad Kariv said in response that Duvdevani’s offer had not been equitable however and was not a fair reflection of the size of the left-wing, progressive block.
The Zionist organizations have never before intervened in this manner, and traditionally refrain from voting in the WZC elections and on the coalition agreement.
The deal drawn up by the Likud, Mizrachi Olami, Eretz Hakodesh, and Yisrael Beytenu grants the most influential positions, and control over large budgets, to their factions and largely excludes the centrist, left wing and non-Orthodox factions from positions of influence.
Outraged, these groups argued that the World Zionist Congress has since its inception worked in an inclusive manner with so-called “wall-to-wall” coalitions across the political and religious spectrum, and requested the intervention of the Zionist organizations to stop what they saw as a one sided agreement.
The right-wing and Orthodox parties have a majority of just seven delegates, but the Zionist organizations which have now intervened have a total of 147 delegates, meaning they could easily vote down the proposed agreement if they so wished.
“We are turning to you out of a deep concern for the future of the Zionist movement and its institutions, to stand up for the principle of wall-to-wall coalitions, and to include changes in the coalition agreement which you made, in order to balance as far as possible the representation of the parties and the [religious] streams, and to lead the Congress in a spirit of peace and agreement between all its components,” the Zionist organizations wrote.
Duvdevani said that he was willing to sit and discuss how the coalition agreement could be amended, but insisted that he had already sought to offer a fair solution and said that it was the fault of the Reform and Masorti leadership for never responding to his offer.
The proposal at the time was that the Likud would get the chairmanship of the WZO, while there would be a rotation deal for the chairmanship of KKL with a Mizrachi Olami and the centrist Yesh Atid Party sharing the role.
The Post understands that the Yesh Atid candidate for the position was its liberal religious-Zionist MK Elazar Stern.
“The Reform and Conservatives come to the negations with the dirtiest hands there can be. Three weeks ago I came to them with a wall-to-wall agreement which was much more balanced than the current one,” said Duvdevani.
“I wanted to create majority with them [the progressive streams], a portion of the Left and a portion of the Right, and then with this majority force it on the right-wing, and I promised that I would be able to bring the Right into this proposal.
“But they didn’t answer me, and they began a war instead of responding,” he continued.
“The first thing streams need to do is come to the table and talk. If they really want to get something they need to come and sit and say what they want. I am willing to see how we can get something to sell to the right-wing.
“But this situation is entirely their fault, they created it, and they cannot now claim that the right-wing demands are too great. I can’t convince the Right as long as the Left doesn’t come to negotiate without a gun to the head.”
Duvdevani also warned that it would be unconstitutional for the Zionist organizations to vote to topple the coalition agreement, and said they would be taken to court if they did so.
Kariv rejected Duvdevani’s claims however, saying that his offer was still unequal, and gave the center-left, progressive bloc the leadership of KKL for the second period of the chairmanship for just two years, while the right-wing would have the chairmanship of WZO as well.
He argued that the balance of power in the WZC was very even with just a slight advantage to the right-wing religious block, and that therefore Duvdevani’s proposals had not been acceptable.
Kariv insisted that his block had made a counter offer either to continue the current KKL chairman Danny Atar’s tenure for the whole five years and have Likud obtain the chairmanship of WZO and Keren Haysod, or to have rotation agreements for both WZO and KKL, with Atar starting as KKL chair.
“If the right-wing is willing to sit and negotiate a decent agreement that gives some advancement to the Right, but still creates real partnership, if they are willing to make fundamental changes then lets do that and have a wall-to-wall coalition,” said Kariv.
“If they just want cosmetic changes then we are not willing to accept that.”
He also called on the Zionist organizations, particularly Hadassah, WIZO and Na’amat which are involved in advancing the status of women in Israel, to ensure the current agreement, which gives the ultra-Orthodox Eretz Hakodesh Party in charge of the large KKL education budget, is toppled.