Uzi Dayan - the next Jewish Agency chairman?

Appointment could be torpedoed by efforts of overseas donors to wrest the chairmanship from Israeli political parties.

Uzi Dayan, 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Uzi Dayan, 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Uzi Dayan, the former deputy chief of General Staff and Likud candidate, is the frontrunner in the race for the upcoming chairman of the Jewish Agency, The Jerusalem Post has learned. That is, unless some of the Jewish Agency's largest donors succeed in wresting the chairmanship away from the Israeli politicians for the first time in the agency's history. The selection of an interim chairman to succeed new Kadima MK Ze'ev Bielski will take place at the June meeting of the Zionist General Council. That interim chairman will serve for one year, until the next Zionist General Congress of June 2010 selects a new chairman for the next four-year term. Traditionally, Israel's sitting prime minister recommends a candidate, who is then elected to the position through a complicated vote in the intertwined World Zionist Organization council and Jewish Agency Assembly. Netanyahu's favored candidate is likely to be Dayan, who is seen as having helped Netanyahu during the elections to portray himself as a centrist candidate. Dayan did not make it onto the Likud list for the Knesset. But plans under way within the Jewish Agency may rob Dayan of the opportunity, which is seen in Israeli politics as a stepping-stone to a cabinet-level position. Representatives of American and other overseas donor groups also have representation in the WZO and Jewish Agency councils. A collection of these representatives, led by some US Jewish federations, have been hoping in recent years to disconnect the Jewish Agency from Israeli politics and transform its top echelons into a professional cadre not used as a consolation prize for second-tier Israeli politicians. In the June meeting of the World Zionist Council, these representatives will place a suggestion to change the governance structure of the agency on the agenda. The plan calls for a reform of the agency's senior leadership structure, including removal of the position of treasurer and transforming the chairman into an unpaid lay leader. The agency's day-to-day operations, according to this plan, would be administered by professionals, not political appointees. If the reform plan passes, the election of Dayan to the new chairmanship would become extremely unlikely, and the agency would likely go without a chairman until a new permanent chair is selected in the World Zionist Congress of June 2010. For his part, Dayan has yet to confirm that he is the frontrunner, though Likud and Agency sources have said as much. "It's too early to talk about this," Dayan told the Post on Tuesday. "It's an important job, but all the effort now is directed at establishing a government as wide and stable and good for the people of Israel as we can. I'm not dealing with appointments right now." A source within the agency told the Post that Dayan was seen within the organization as a good choice for chairman. "He's a mover and a shaker, a nudnik. But nothing is certain yet. He's the Likud frontrunner, but the Likud could choose to support a Kadima candidate as part of a coalition agreement," said the source.