As Jewish Agency seeks next head, Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai is not a candidate

Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai is not one of the final candidates for the head of the Jewish Agency, whose selection committee has begun to invite candidates for the post to stand for interviews.

Shai’s name has not been submitted to the government for consideration.

The possible appointment of the minister to head the agency, which focuses on Israel’s ties to the Diaspora Jewish community abroad, had been reported as part of a possible government reshuffle aimed at satisfying requests from coalition members.

Those who received a call to face the selection committee are the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who is the co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council; former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon; former Minister of the Diaspora Omer Yankelevich; former Kulanu MP and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren; and former Blue and White MP Michal Cotler-Wunsh.

Meanwhile, ANU-Museum of the Jewish People director Irina Nevzlin, who is married to Likud MP Yuli Edelstein, has withdrawn her candidacy.

Professor Yaffa Zilbershats, chair of the Higher Education Council’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, and former Likud MP Uzi Dayan did not receive a call from the selection committee, meaning their candidacy was not ‘will not go ahead.

It is believed that a final decision will be made by February, when the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors meets.

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and co-founder of UAE-Israel Business Council Fleur Hassan-Nahoum at al-Habtoor Palace in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, October 13, 2020 (Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

The governing body consists of 10 people – five members of the World Zionist Organization, three representatives of the Jewish Federations of North America and two representatives of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal.

In October, Hebrew media reported that government officials discussed the selection of Labor member Shai to head the Jewish Agency and the transfer of his ministerial portfolio to Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker Eli Avidar.

The move would have solved two problems for the coalition by finding a suitable official for the Jewish Agency after controversy erupted over Yesh Atid’s previous candidate, Elazar Stern, and by appeasing Avidar, a rebellious lawmaker who was not satisfied with his position in government.

Deputy Minister Michael Oren in the Knesset, June 27, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel)

Shai was reportedly interested in the Jewish Agency post and had started talks with some relevant officials about the possibility of taking the presidency.

However, Shai’s departure from government would have weakened his Labor faction and party leader Transport Minister Merav Michaeli should have agreed to a deal that included some form of compensation.

Avidar has been a member of Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party since 2019, but ties between the two deteriorated in June when lawmakers were denied a cabinet post. On the day the new government was sworn in this month, Avidar said he would no longer vote along party lines.

Following negotiations between Avidar and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office, a compromise was reached whereby Avidar would be appointed Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for strategic planning. He was supposed to be appointed minister of intelligence once Stern left his post to head the Jewish Agency.

However, the plan was turned upside down when Stern, the coalition’s choice for the job, withdrew his candidacy amid controversy over comments he made suggesting he had ignored anonymous complaints – including possibly be allegations of sexual harassment – during his tenure as head of the IDF’s workforce leadership. .

The former head of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, was elected president of Israel in June.

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