In late June, following a tense week of debate on revised governance policies for the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky was elected JAFI’s Chair of the Executive. Those supporting the approved changes were clearly looking to break the tradition of one individual holding the most senior professional position at both JAFI and the WZO; this as a prelude to reconfiguring the complex relationship between the two organizations. In order to receive the nomination, Sharansky even provided written assurance to the nominating committee he would not seek, nor accept, the WZO position. In fact, the revised governance resolution goes further and states, “It is the explicit preference that neither the Chairperson of the Executive nor the Deputy Chairperson of the Executive should assume or continue an additional position of meaningful responsibility during his/her term of office.”

But today, three weeks later, is Sharansky having the last laugh?

Has he resigned his position as Chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies (an affiliate of Jerusalem’s Shalem Center)? Has he received any financial benefit from the Adelson Institute subsequent to June 23rd?

What, if anything, is Natan Sharansky’s current relationship with Adelson/Shalem?

The truth is, we just don’t know.

The Jewish Agency has deferred questions to the Shalem Center.

At Shalem, neither the media office, or their President, has responded to numerous email requests seeking clarification. Their media spokesperson is not reachable by phone. In fact, Dan Polisar (Shalem’s President) received advance notice we were planning to run this story. Still no response.

What we do know is Shalem’s Website lists Sharansky as Chair of the Adelson Institute. More to the point, Sharansky’s own Website – which has been updated several times since he assumed the JAFI position – still shows him as Chairman of the Adelson Institute. The site additionally indicates Sharansky holds positions as “Chairman of One Jerusalem and Beth Hatefutsoth, the Jewish Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv.”

The Website also clearly states that both the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies and The Shalem Center are partners in NatanSharansky.org.

As an aside, now that Sharansky sits at the head of JAFI, who has been funding the continued operation of this site since June 23rd – and why, by the way, does the Chair of JAFI even need his own personal Website? It seems to me the Jewish Agency is doing a superb job promoting him on their own! Or, is the purpose of this site to keep Sharansky in the global public eye and serve as a PR vehicle for self-promotion? After all, it is well-known that Sharansky sees the JAFI position as a stepping-stone to succeed Shimon Peres as President.

Back to Shalem: Why is the Shalem Center declining to respond? Is it as simple as poor media skills? Haven’t they woken up to the message that transparency is the in, and necessary, top agenda item today? Don’t they realize that instead of leading the story, they’re becoming the story? Does anyone at the Shalem Center understand PR101? Do they comprehend that if Sharansky previously resigned and they simply confirmed it, there would be no story?

Of course, perhaps Sharansky has not yet resigned.

Either way, it’s time for an official statement from Shalem.