Zionist institutions in internal rift, as Keren Hayesod trustees sue WZO

Suit insists World Zionist Organization violated Keren Hayesod governing statues, demands court instruct current chair to remain in position until at least April 2022.

World Zionist Organization building (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
World Zionist Organization building
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In an unprecedented and bitter rift within the “national institutions” of the Zionist movement, the Appeal Trustees of Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal have filed a legal complaint against the World Zionist Congress and Keren Hayesod itself for a vote in the WZO on the Keren Hayesod chair which the trustees did not approve.
During the 38th World Zionist Congress at the end of October, a vote was taken to extend the tenure of current Keren Hayesod world chairman Sam Grundwerg for six months only.
According to the trustees, they had agreed with representatives of the WZO that Grundwerg would serve until April 2022, and argue that the vote to approve his tenure only until the end of April 2021 after which a new chairman will be sought was invalid and violates Keren Hayesod’s constitution and by laws.
The legal complaint was filed in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa District Court in the name of Keren Hayesod chairman of the World Board of Trustees Steven Lowy, along with his fellow board members Mark Leibler, a previous chair of the board of trustees, and David Koschitzky, a past chairman of the Keren Hayesod World Board of Trustees
The complaint was filed against the World Zionist Organization, its new chairman Yaakov Hagoel, outgoing chairman and new chair of Keren Kayameth LeIsrael Avraham Duvdevani, general secretary of the Zionist General Council Reuven Shalom, Yaron Shavit,  Masha Lubelsky and Keren Hayesod itself.
According to the legal complaint, in a meeting between those officials together with Lowy and two other World Board of Trustee members on the night of October 21 to discuss the chairmanship of Keren Hayesod.
Although the WZO representatives insisted at the beginning that they would only extend Grundwerg’s tenure until April 2021, and even had to end the meeting at one stage for consultations, it was eventually agreed by all sides that Grundwerg would continue in his position until the end of April 2022.
Despite this, a vote in the World Zionist Congress to extend Grundwerg’s tenure only until April 21 and no longer was taken on Oct. 22, while a “coalition agreement” between the different congress factions decided to allow the Blue and White party to nominate a new chair after that date.
On Oct. 23, Hagoel, Duvdevani, and other representatives of the Zionist General Council wrote to Lowy and the other trustee members telling them that “The Standing Committee [of the Zionist Congress] did not accept our requests and recommendation,” and that Grundwerg would serve only until the end of April 2021.
According to the complaint the failure to come to an agreement with the World Board of Trustees violates clause 28 of the governing statute of Keren Hayesod.
It demands that the court order that Grundwerg either remain in office until the next Zionist congress in five years time, or that it order him to remain in office until the end of April 2022, as was agreed in the meeting between the trustees and WZO representatives.
The WZO said in response that “All decisions in the Zionist Congress and the national institutions were taken in accordance with the governing statues and the constitution, including this decision too [on the Keren Hayesod chair] in which the final decision is exclusively given to the World Zionist Congress.
“The WZO does not intend to be dragged into organizational and personal disputes. We have not yet received the complaint, if it has indeed been filed, and we will of course respond in detail to the court through presentation of all the relevant details.”
In an interview last week with The Jerusalem Post, Lowy said that at stake was the independence of Keren Hayesod from political influence.
“We care about efficiency, we care about where the money is going, and about independent leadership, these principles are sacrosanct,” said Lowy.
“Who in the Diaspora is going to give money to an organization which is entirely controlled by the Israeli political system and in a situation when they do not have confidence in the governance and leadership of that organization,” he demanded.