Sharansky: It's a pity the Jewish Agency can't pick a chairperson

Natan Sharansky says that the Israeli politicians have been abusing the role of chairman of the Jewish Agency and treating it only as an opportunity to offer a job to fellow politicians

 NATAN SHARANSKY in 2011.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
NATAN SHARANSKY in 2011.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Former Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky criticized the Agency’s chairmanship selection committee for its inability to decide on a final candidate for over eight months.

“It’s a pity,” Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the election process requires a candidate to receive nine votes out of 10. Without ultimate support from the prime minister, it is almost impossible to receive such a score.”

Sharansky said that Israeli politicians have been abusing the role of chairmanship of the Jewish Agency and treating it only as an opportunity to offer a job to fellow politicians.

“The current ministers’ attitude toward the Agency can’t be very positive if they recommend candidates who are so unsuitable for the job,” he said. “There are candidates who the ministers stand on their hind legs for, yet there is no connection between their experience and the huge task of running the Jewish Agency. The Jewish Agency long ago stopped being a place for chairmen who only qualify for the job since they are loyal to the current prime minister.”

Sharansky has been in touch with all of the candidates, and knows the politics.

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

“I don’t see anyone getting nine votes, and that is a pity since there are some candidates who are not that bad,” he said, “not that bad at all,” asking not to mention any names. “I think we need to go to the prime minister and tell him: ‘If you really want world Jewry to be your partner, then take them seriously.’ I personally think that there are some good candidates even if they aren’t affiliated with one party or another.”

The seven candidates in alphabetical order are former Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon, former Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, former ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, former ambassador to the US Michael Oren, Belgian businessman Roby Spiegel and former Diaspora Affairs minister Omer Yankelevich.

The voting would likely be between Calderon and Danon, who received the most votes two weeks ago, said sources in the Jewish Agency. Members of the committee were not optimistic that any of the candidates would receive the nine votes from the 10-member committee. The committee was supposed to meet on Wednesday but the vote will instead take place this Friday.

A source on the selection committee said there was no obligation to choose a new chairman until the final day of the Agency Board of Governors meeting on March 1. A source active in the board said that if the selection committee chose Danon, it was likely that the board of governors would not approve him.