update: Some of you may wonder why we have been giving this issue so much ‘ink’. The issues of governance and the resulting schism between Israel’s political parties, the Jewish Agency and the Diaspora fundraising community really is a big deal and the possible reverberations will be felt in hundreds of programs currently being funded by the various organizations. Stay tuned – this story is not going away.
update 2: The most recent schedule now shows the Prime Minister has been removed from the official program. However, the time slot remains unfilled.
from The Jerusalem Post:
In what Israelis are calling a sign of things to come if the growing schism between the government and American funders worsens over efforts to reform Jewish Agency governance, both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein have canceled their appearances at next week’s meeting of the agency’s Board of Governors in Jerusalem…
For the Israeli government, the issue is American delegates’ refusal to guarantee the election of Natan Sharansky as agency chairman. For the Americans, especially leaders of the UJC, the umbrella of American Jewish federations which funds a large portion of the Jewish Agency’s budget, it is about diminishing the influence of the Israeli political system on the agency’s leadership and operations through weakening the decades-old link between the agency from the World Zionist Organization (WZO).
The Israeli decision was made after a Monday night phone call between Jewish Agency board chairman Richie Pearlstone and Netanyahu. According to government sources, the prime minister asked Pearlstone to agree to the Sharansky nomination ahead of the planned passage of the governance reform next week, but Pearlstone refused to do so. Netanyahu replied that this would lead to a “harming of relations” between the agency and the government of Israel.
For the first time since the establishment of the state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not plan to address the Jewish Agency Board of Governors assembly, which will convene in Jerusalem next week. Netanyahu canceled his appearance against the backdrop of growing disagreement between the prime minister and Israeli representatives at the Jewish Agency on the one hand, and American representatives and donors on the other.
The prime minister’s major disagreement is over the refusal of American delegates to support his candidate for Jewish Agency chairman, the former Soviet Jewish dissident and former Israeli cabinet minster Natan Sharansky.
[also see our post from yesterday, Standoff in Jerusalem]