Woman set to head KKL-JNF in historic first for the organization

Ifat Ovadia-Luski is set to take over as head of KKL-JNF, but an internal Likud dispute could see her lose out to Haim Katz.

 Ifat Ovadia-Luski (photo credit: COURTESY HISTADRUT)
Ifat Ovadia-Luski
(photo credit: COURTESY HISTADRUT)

Ifat Ovadia-Luski was recently chosen to succeed Avraham Duvdevani as the new head of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), its directory announced on Tuesday. Her appointment to the position would make her the first woman to serve in the role since the organization was founded in 1901.

However, her tenure at the head of the organization could turn out to be short, as it comes on the heels of an ongoing power struggle inside the Likud party over the leadership of KKL-JNF, which is just part of the larger battle over ministerial posts in Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

After failed efforts by Netanyahu to settle the dispute, MK Miki Zohar on Monday brought a suit before the internal court of the Likud party in order to stop the nomination of Ovadia-Luski, Globes reported.

"The decision today ... is historic and sends a message."

Ifat Ovadia-Luski

On Tuesday the Likud party's internal court ruled that MK Haim Katz - who according to an existing agreement was supposed to succeed Avrahami - has until the end of the year to decide if he wants to serve as KKL-JNF chairman. If he passes on the office, Ovadia-Luski's nomination will stand and she will begin her tenure in the new year.

 Likud MK Haim Katz seen at a Knesset plenary session on  his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on February 17, 2020. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Likud MK Haim Katz seen at a Knesset plenary session on his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on February 17, 2020. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

46-year-old Ovadia-Luski previously served as the head of the Department of Culture, Hebrew and the Fight Against Antisemitism at Keren HaYesod.

Ovadia-Luski reacted to the initial announcement regarding her, now uncertain, appointment to the role by saying: "The decision...is historic and sends a message. As someone who has been working in national institutions for over two decades, I am proud to have been chosen to lead this immensely important Zionist enterprise and I am conscious of the national responsibility that is now on my shoulders."

Power struggles inside the party

Ovadia-Luski's nomination was supported by former ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who dominates the World Likud faction in KKL-JNF as its chairman.

Danon pushed through Ovadia-Luski's nomination against the opposition of several Likud members, mainly MKs Miki Zohar and Chaim Katz and also against the wishes of Netanyahu, who wants to use the office as a consolation prize for party members who, against their expectations, won't get an important government office.

Chaim Katz hesitated to commit to the office in hopes of getting a better post in the upcoming government. Danon then exploited Katz's hesitancy and nominated a candidate of his own.

Danon is also using his power over the office as a bargaining chip against Netanyahu in order to get himself a better post. He reportedly wishes to become the speaker of the Knesset but isn’t at the moment mentioned as a possible nominee.

Zvika Klein contributed to this report.