Jewish Agency race ‘unaffected by plea deal talks’

Candidate will be chosen at the beginning of February.

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

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s negotiations on a plea agreement that could impact the staying power of the current Israeli government will not influence the race for chairman of the Jewish Agency, sources on the selection committee vowed on Thursday.

The selection committee interviewed Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s candidate, Ruth Calderon, for the second time on Tuesday night, completing the process of job interviews for the post. They decided afterward not to eliminate any of the seven candidates.

The next time the committee will meet will be to select a candidate at the beginning of February, ahead of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting that starts on February 21.

It is expected to be clear by then whether Netanyahu signs a plea agreement. But sources in the committee promised not to take that into account.

“We are choosing a candidate for four years, and we know that in Israel, that means at least two governments,” a source on the committee said.

 THEN-PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit sit alongside each other a cabinet meeting in 2014. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) THEN-PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit sit alongside each other a cabinet meeting in 2014. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Among the candidates, there was thought that the possibility the current government would not last long could harm the chances of Calderon and help the candidates connected to Likud. Danny Danon is the head of World Likud and a former Likud minister. Fleur Hassan-Nahoum is a Likud central committee member, who has said she would run for Knesset with the party in the future.

Michael Oren was appointed ambassador to the US by Netanyahu and has been endorsed by one of the opposition leader’s closest benefactors, Miriam Adelson. He is also very close to the top candidate in the polls to succeed Netanyahu as Likud leader, MK Nir Barkat.

However, one of the candidates said the plea deal would only reinforce the view that politics should not be taken into account at all.

“The plea makes them realize even more that they need to decide based on skills, not politics,” the candidate said. “Anyway, the members of the selection committee have said they are sick of politics.”

The other three candidates are MKs Michal Cotler-Wunsh and Omer Yankelevich and Belgian-Jewish leader Roby Spiegel.