Ukraine crisis adds pressure to pick Jewish Agency head

"There is fear in the selection committee that if there’s no real chairman during the Ukraine crisis, the Jewish Agency’s reputation will be hurt dramatically," one of the candidates said.

 IN JULY, newly-elected Israeli president and outgoing chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog and chairman of the World Zionist Organization Yaakov Hagoel attend a farewell ceremony held in Herzog’s honor at the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
IN JULY, newly-elected Israeli president and outgoing chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog and chairman of the World Zionist Organization Yaakov Hagoel attend a farewell ceremony held in Herzog’s honor at the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

The ongoing war in Ukraine will boost the chances that the Jewish Agency selection committee will choose a new chairman on Sunday, candidates said on Saturday night.

The committee will meet on Sunday afternoon ahead of Sunday night’s meeting of the agency’s Board of Governors, which just returned from a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

If no candidate is chosen by the time the board completes its meetings on Tuesday night, interim agency chairman Yaakov Hagoel will remain in the post until the board convenes again in July.

“There is fear in the selection committee that if there’s no real chairman during the Ukraine crisis, the Jewish Agency’s reputation will be hurt dramatically,” one of the candidates said.

One obstacle to choosing a chairman was removed when an agreement was reached enabling the current chairman of Keren Hayesod, Sam Grundwerg, to continue in his position until the next Zionist Congress in 2025, despite prior agreements to the contrary.

 Jews from Ukraine arrive at a Jewish community center in Chisinau, Moldova, Feb. 25, 2022. (credit: Courtesy of Rabbi Pinchas Salzman) Jews from Ukraine arrive at a Jewish community center in Chisinau, Moldova, Feb. 25, 2022. (credit: Courtesy of Rabbi Pinchas Salzman)

The two Keren Hayesod representatives on the committee had threatened to not vote for any agency chairman until Grundwerg’s job was renewed. Support from nine of the 10 members of the selection committee is required to be chosen.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy wrote Likud faction chairman Yariv Levin on Friday, asking him to permit the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee to be formed. The committee has not met since the previous Knesset was dispersed 14 months ago, because it is set to be chaired by an MK from the opposition, which is boycotting Knesset committees.

Levy wrote Levin that the committee is necessary to oversee the expected influx of immigrants from Ukraine. Levin rejected the offer.

“This is a pathetic manipulation,” a source close to Levin said. “If the issue is truly important to the Knesset speaker, he can force the coalition to distribute seats on committees fairly for the coalition and opposition and all committees will meet.”

Knesset Law and Constitution Committee chairman Gilad Kariv said his committee would deal with the humanitarian situation in Ukraine on Monday.