Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel is considering running for head of the Jewish Agency after being elected by World Likud as the candidate for the position, The Jerusalem Post learned Monday.Kashriel was elected in August 2015, ahead of the World Zionist Congress in October. World Likud is made up of different Likud branches throughout Israel and the Diaspora.Kashriel, 64, has served as mayor of Ma’aleh Adumin since 1992 and told the Post that he had not yet decided whether to run for the position; he’ll make the decision depending on whether long-time Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky decides to step down in June 2017, when his current and second term ends, or asks for an extension.Former Soviet refusenik Sharansky, 68, has headed the agency since June 2009.Jewish Agency spokesman Avi Mayer said that Sharansky had not yet stated his intentions, and Kashriel made clear that he would not be challenging Sharansky should he wish to continue at the helm.The Likud is tasked with selecting a candidate to lead the agency, while Labor does the same for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.
The sitting Israeli prime minister traditionally recommends a candidate for the coveted position, before a complicated election process ensues. At the last stage, the candidate must be approved by a majority vote by the Jewish Agency board of governors. Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also the leader of the Likud, which elected Kashriel, as prime minister he may still recommend someone else. Kashriel is outspoken in his support for strengthening Jewish settlements, like his Ma’aleh Adumim, the third largest Jewish city in the West Bank. Until 2002, he served as the head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He also worked in various positions in the Housing Ministry.The Jewish Agency describes itself as an apolitical organization and states that it has no position on West Bank settlements. Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of World Likud and vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization, says the place of residence of the Jewish Agency chief is of no significance.“It’s part of pluralism,” he said, recalling that Sallai Meridor, who was Jewish Agency chairman between 1999-2005, was also an outspoken proponent of Jewish settlements and a resident of Kfar Adumim. “I think Kashriel is a very appropriate candidate,” Hagoel says.