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Agency decides to let new candidates join race til November 17


The Jewish Agency chairmanship selection committee decided Monday to allow new candidates to join the race until November 17, immediately after the deadline for the government to pass the state budget.

The government asked for the delay due to concerns that rebel Strategic Planning Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Eli Avidar would quit the cabinet, return to the Knesset and vote against the budget if he is not promoted in the cabinet to a post that could be vacated by a possible new candidate, such as Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai. A source close to Avidar said he was positive a solution could be found.

“Finding a new candidate to chair the Jewish Agency will have to wait until the state budget is passed,” Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said at Monday’s Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting.

The selection committee rejected a request by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of four additional months for the government to field a new candidate to replace Intelligence Services Minister Elazar Stern, who quit the race after a scandal over his shredding of anonymous complaints when he was a senior IDF officer.

Instead, the committee decided that anyone can field a new candidate over the next month, not only Lapid. The committee will then make its decision within a month.

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 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset, October 5, 2021. (credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL) Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset, October 5, 2021. (credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL)

That decision will need to be rubber-stamped at the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in February after next week’s meeting will be held without choosing a chairman. Meanwhile, World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel will remain as acting chairman of the agency, a post he has held since Isaac Herzog was elected president in July.

Candidates expressed frustration at the possibility of a delay after months of hard campaigning. But sources close to Lapid said the vote could wait a few months.

Stern’s departure leaves eight candidates: ANU Museum of the Jewish People director Irina Nevzlin, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Bar-Ilan University law professor Yaffa Zilbershats and former MKs Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Danny Danon, Uzi Dayan, Michael Oren and Omer Yankelevich.

Oren said he would remain in the race.

“The Jewish people are facing a crisis of historic dimensions,” he said. “This is certainly not a time to back down. I remain dedicated to the strength, unity and vitality of the Jewish people.”

Cotler-Wunsh said she would also stay in the race and praised the post she hopes to obtain.

“I remain committed to serving the State of Israel and the Jewish people, championing the intersecting pillars of aliyah; relations between Israel and global Jewry and the imperative to bridge political, cultural and religious divides; identifying and addressing hurdles; and utilizing relevant tools, including ‘the language of rights,’ to engage and reach across differences to renew and advance shared values and goals at this critical time of challenge and opportunity,” Cotler-Wunsh said.

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