Opposition leader Isaac Herzog is slated to replace Natan Sharansky as the head of the Jewish Agency, after a search committee decided to back his candidacy and reject Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s candidate.
This is the first time in 23 years that the prime minister’s choice for the position was rejected. Sources said Netanyahu has decided not to contest the nomination, and would instead nominate a candidate from his Likud party for the post of Jewish National Fund chairman.
The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors is convening in Jerusalem on Sunday and is expected to give the nomination its final approval, in which case Herzog would start his four-year term on August 1, 2018.
“In light of an appeal by Jewish leaders in the Diaspora, I agreed to take on the role of chairman of the Jewish Agency,” Herzog tweeted after the nomination was declared. “These are days of significant challenges concerning the relations between the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu called the search committee on Thursday and was informed that Herzog was its choice for the top job. Netanyahu then asked if the panel had met with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, and when he was told that there had been no such meeting, Netanyahu stressed that Steinitz was his candidate and asked that they meet. After the panel met with the energy minister, it informed Netanyahu that the members were still backing Herzog.
Herzog, who headed the Labor Party prior to being ousted last summer by Avi Gabbay and also held various ministerial posts in past governments, was one of five candidates for Jewish Agency chairmant. Because Gabbay is not a Knesset member, Herzog remained leader of the opposition in the Knesset following his ouster as Labor Party leader.