Zionist Congress headed for showdown over top jobs

"We have attempted to reach other solutions, but right now, our intention is to move forward with the same deal," Miki Zohar said.

World Zionist Organization building (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
World Zionist Organization building
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The final day of the three-day Zionist Congress on Thursday will feature a battle over the key posts in the Zionist Institutions after a new World Zionist Organization coalition deal was not reached by Wednesday night.
Coalition chairman Miki Zohar told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night that he still intended to try to push through an agreement he reached with right-wing parties and Orthodox groups, despite the opposition of centrist and left-wing parties, non-Orthodox religious streams and Jewish organizations.
“We have attempted to reach other solutions, but right now, our intention is to move forward with the same deal,” Zohar said.
The agreement gives the chairmanship of the WZO to the Likud and the chairmanship of Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel to a rotation of the religious-Zionist World Mizrachi and Likud. More controversially, it gives the education department of KKL to Eretz Hakodesh (The Holy Land), a new ultra-Orthodox and conservative Modern Orthodox party.
Leaders of the Masorti (Conservative) and Reform movements convinced the leadership of the major Zionist organizations with voting rights at the congress to cast decisive votes against the coalition agreement. But Zohar said he still had enough votes to pass the deal.
Zohar said another possibility that remained was to let current KKL chairman Danny Atar keep his post for two years at the expense of Mizrachi. He denied reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was urging him to oust Mizrachi, because it is affiliated with the opposition Yamina Party and because Mizrachi head Avraham Duvdevani enabled Isaac Herog to become head of the Jewish Agency.
The deal Zohar reached saved the plum post of Keren Hayesod chairman for Blue and White. But Netanyahu wants to give the job to either former Likud MK Avraham Naguise or to Shifra Shahar, who heads the organization A Warm Home for Every Soldier.
Sources in Blue and White said they would not take the post, because they supported the efforts to improve the deal.
“We are trying to reopen the toxic agreement and use pressure to create more balance and equal distribution in national institutions,” said a source close to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. “We don’t want to let them take over everything.”
The sources said Blue and White was pushing for a rotation in senior posts. The party backs Atar to keep his job.
Rabbi Josh Weinberg, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, said attempts to get the deal changed were ongoing and the fight was far from over.
“We are still putting pressure on,” Weinberg said. “We don’t want this agreement to move forward. It is narrow and shortsighted. It is not in the interest of the Israeli government to alienate the majority of Diaspora Jews.”
Union of Reform Judaism President Rick Jacobs praised the Jewish organizations that agreed to oppose the deal.
“There was an extreme right-wing attempt to dominate this once inclusive [Zionist Congress],” Jacobs said. “We are grateful to Hadassah, Bnai Brith, WIZO, Maccabi, and others for joining our coalition to stop the demonization and marginalization of non-Orthodox liberal Zionists.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.