Government divided on who should chair the Jewish Agency

Liberman's new candidate: "I know the complexity of the Jewish world"

The Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
The Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The heads of the parties in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition revealed deep differences in their faction meetings at the Knesset on Monday over the next chairman of the Jewish Agency.

The coalition had previously united around the candidacy of Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid). But after he left the race, the party heads went in different directions.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman proposed a new candidate, Roby Spiegel, a businessman and Jewish leader who has headed Israel Bonds and the Zionist Federation in Brussels, and was previously involved in World Likud. Spiegel, who made aliyah a year and a half ago, had a close relationship with Menachem Begin and many other prime ministers, foreign ministers and agency chairmen.

“I have devoted my life to bringing Jews to Israel and bringing Israel to Jews,” Spiegel said. “I am sure the other candidates are good candidates, but in my humble opinion, I am the ideal candidate. I am best placed to strengthen the bonds among Jews. I know the complexity of the Jewish world. I have in me the fiber of Zionism and the love of the Jewish people.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said firmly that former Diaspora Affairs minister Omer Yankelevitch “was, is, and will remain the sole candidate of Blue and White.”

Nachman Shai (credit: Courtesy)Nachman Shai (credit: Courtesy)

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai told Channel 13 on Saturday night that he had not given up on the position. But Labor leader Merav Michaeli said on Monday that although Shai is fit to head the agency, he would not receive the post.

Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid proposed former Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon last Wednesday. Lapid expressed optimism on Monday that she would receive the endorsement of Bennett.

When told that Bennett’s associates were not enamored by Calderon, saying on a panel with former agency chairman Avraham Burg that she puts bread – not matza – on her Seder plate in order to remember the poor, Lapid said the clip was taken out of context in order to harm her.

The other candidates are Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and former MKs Danny Danon, Michael Oren and Michal Cotler-Wunsh.

Calderon and Spiegel will be interviewed on Thursday by the agency’s 10-member selection committee. A veto from two members is enough to disqualify a candidate. The committee must make a choice before next month’s meeting of the agency’s board of governors.