Jewish Agency chairmanship could be vacant soon due to PM's indecision

Natan Sharansky, the current chairman of the Jewish Agency, intends to leave his post immediately following a June meeting in Jerusalem.

Natan Sharansky  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Natan Sharansky
A replacement for Natan Sharansky as chairman of the Jewish Agency will not be appointed at next month’s Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in Zichron Ya’acov because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to select a candidate before then, informed sources tell The Jerusalem Post.
The Post reported in November that American heads of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America had given Netanyahu a list of at least six candidates they deem worthy to succeed Sharansky: National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, Consul-General in New York Dani Dayan, Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and former ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor.
If Netanyahu does not select a candidate in time for the February meeting, his last chance before Sharansky’s departure will be at another board of governors meeting set for June 24-26 in Jerusalem. Sharansky intends to leave his post immediately after that meeting.
It is possible that the agency chairmanship will remain vacant for a few months, and the prime minister will only appoint a replacement ahead of the October board meeting, which will coincide with the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Tel Aviv.
Sources revealed that Netanyahu’s legal and political problems are holding up a decision. In the past, he might have wanted to appoint Steinitz to create a vacancy in the cabinet for his ally, then-coalition chairman David Bitan. But Bitan’s own legal problems forced him to quit the coalition chairmanship, and he no longer has any chances of being a minister.
Appointing Steinitz now would cause headaches for Netanyahu, who would face several MKs who would demand to be appointed to the cabinet. That could make it likely that Netanyahu could appoint Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, who was chosen in 2015 as the candidate of World Likud, which was given the agency chairmanship as part of the coalition agreement in the World Zionist Organization.
According to two sources, Netanyahu has told agency officials in private conversations that he would like to give the job to Kashriel. But no one close to Netanyahu would confirm that.
The American Jewish leadership has ruled out Kashriel as a candidate, because he is a settler leader. French Jewish leaders told Kashriel they do not believe he will be chosen, because of his Sephardi background.
Sources close to Sharansky declined to comment on speculation about his successor.
“Chairman Sharansky’s term will conclude in June,” a source close to Sharansky said. “We have nothing further to add at this time.”