Right-wing, Orthodox bloc makes big gains in WZC agreement

The right-wing, religious-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox bloc of the World Zionist Congress took control of the major Zionist organizations, other than Jewish Agency.

World Zionist Congress 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
World Zionist Congress 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After a rancorous argument over the control of the major Zionist institutions over the last week, an agreement has finally been reached in the appointment of the major portfolios and positions of influence within the World Zionist Organization, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael -Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal.
The agreement leans heavily in favor of the right-wing, religious-Zionist, and ultra-Orthodox parties, but it has been tempered somewhat from the original deal that drew so much fire from the center-left, progressive Jewish bloc.
Under the new agreement, the chairman of the WZO will be Likud official Yaakov Hagoel, while the chairmanship of KKL will be shared between the Mizrachi Party and the Likud, with Mizrachi official Avraham Duvdevani taking the first stint for two years.
It is not yet clear who will take the second term, of three years, for the Likud, although one likely candidate is MK and former government minister Haim Katz.
The chairman of Keren Hayesod will come from the Blue and White Party, although if that proves impossible due to objections by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then the party will get another senior position within the national institutions.
Crucially, the Yesh Atid Party will take control of the powerful Finance Committee within KKL which controls its extremely large budgets, unlike in the original agreement in which the Likud controlled that position.
And the chairmanship of the KKL Education Committee will no longer be exclusively controlled by the ultra-Orthodox Eretz Hakodesh Party as stipulated in the original agreement, but will now be shared on a rotational basis with Blue and White.
Eretz Hakodesh will control the committee for the first two and a half years and Blue and White for the second two and a half year period.
The president of the Zionist Movement, a ceremonial position, will be a woman appointed from Yesh Atid.
The distribution of control of the various departments within the WZO will now be “more equitable” towards the center-left bloc than the original agreement, according to Director of the Reform Movement in Israel Rabbi Gilad Kariv.
And he noted that the “sectoral” departments such as the slated “Department for ultra-Orthodox Spiritual Services” will no longer be established, as was stipulated under the original agreement.
Kariv welcomed the agreement, saying that the center-left and progressive Jewish bloc had obtained real achievements in the new deal and made it more balanced and maintained its influence within the national institutions.
“This agreement leans to the right, and the right-wing, religious block has an exaggerated position, but we have created a wave of protest in our circles and in the Zionist organizations, who, through grass roots pressure, realized they cannot sit on the fence, and therefore demanded changes,” said Kariv.
“We are truly interested in working together with all parties but we showed in the last week that we have strength in Israeli society and Jewish communities overseas to ensure that there is no hostile take over of the Zionist institutions.”
Chairman of the Likud Central Committee and Likud MK Haim Katz said that the agreement had “put the right-wing on the map in a big way,” adding that “with cooperation and equality we will strengthen the Jewish people and Jewish settlement in every part of the land of our forefathers.”
Director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel Dr. Yizhar Hess said that the agreement was a “wise and balanced” agreement that properly reflects the results of the election of the WZC, in a “slight advantage” to the right-wing.
He said he was pleased that the liberal, center-left bloc had managed to annul the original WZC agreement, and thanked the Zionist organizations with voting rights in the WZC – especially Hadassah, WIZO and B’nai B’rith – for their intervention which ensured that the final agreement gave better representation to the liberal bloc.