Jewish Agency race down to five candidates

The prolonged race for the head of the Jewish Agency is down to five candidates, but names can still be put forward until February. Former IDF deputy chief of staff Dayan was spurned.

Deputy Mayor for Foreign Relations, Economic Development and Tourism Fleur Hassan-Nahoum on the site of planned expansion of the US Embassy in Jerusalem (photo credit: Courtesy)
Deputy Mayor for Foreign Relations, Economic Development and Tourism Fleur Hassan-Nahoum on the site of planned expansion of the US Embassy in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Courtesy)

The race for chairman of the Jewish Agency, which began with nine candidates, has been whittled down to five, ahead of the Agency’s Board of Governors meeting in February.

Initially, two of the top candidates were Intelligence Services Minister Elazar Stern and ANU Museum director Irina Nevzlin, but both dropped out, which left seven.

On Thursday, Jewish Agency Secretary-General Josh Schwarcz, who works under the radar, called five candidates to invite them to a second interview this week: Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and former MKs Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Danny Danon, Michael Oren and Omer Yankelevich.

Former MK Uzi Dayan apparently did not receive such an invitation. He declined to comment on the snub. All he would say when reached was “you will have to speak to the selection committee.”

Dayan, who will turn 74 next week, served as head of IDF Central Command, deputy chief of staff and head of the National Security Council. If chosen, he would have been the highest-ranking IDF officer to ever head the agency.

Former UN ambassador Danny Danon at the Ruderman Foundation's conference on Israel in American politics, April 20, 2021.  (credit: OREN COHEN)Former UN ambassador Danny Danon at the Ruderman Foundation's conference on Israel in American politics, April 20, 2021. (credit: OREN COHEN)

There apparently was also no invitation given to the second round for Bar Ilan University law Prof. Emerita Yaffa Zilbershats, the outgoing chairwoman of the Budgets and Planning Committee of the Council for Higher Education

Asked on Saturday night if she had been invited, Zilbershats said: “I will not answer. Ask the selection committee.”

A source on the committee revealed that the new deadline for joining the race is December 31. But even after that, any member of the selection committee will still be able to bring a new candidate until the decision is made.

The real deadline is only the end of February when the Board of Governors convenes to approve the new Agency head. Until then, Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid is likely to take his time to reveal the government’s preferred candidate.

The Agency released a statement on Saturday night saying that “the process of selecting a new chairman continues in a comprehensive and professional manner and that as part of the process, the selection committee will interview candidates until the most fitting choice is selected.”