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Almogi in U.S. for Israel Bonds Fund-raising. Not Electioneering

Haifa Mayor and Jewish Agency-World Zionist Organization chairmanship candidate Yosef Almogi left for the U.S. for a whirlwind three-week tour that will take him to 10 cities on behalf of Israel Bonds. The trip, he told JTA yesterday before departing, was arranged months ago–long before Pinhas Sapir died and he (Almogi) found himself in the running to succeed him. (Almogi held a press conference in New York today. See separate story.)

It is not an electioneering trip, but a fundraising one, he said. On the other hand, as Almogi readily admitted, there is “nothing shameful” in electioneering, and he will be ready to answer questions from Jews he meets abroad on his platform for the chairmanship elections. The vote will probably be held, for the WZO chairmanship, at the Zionist General Council meeting here in January. Whoever wins it will automatically be elected chairman of the Jewish Agency in the summer. Both terms expire in December, when the Zionist Congress will have to re-elect the chairman and executives of both bodies.

The two main points on Almogi’s ticket are: “to deepen Jewish consciousness, and to tighten the links between Israel and the diaspora.” Both aims can be achieved, he believes, by enlarging and broadening the activities of the Zionist federations in each country.

Almogi said he is well aware of the theory, advanced in many quarters, that the party-political system still prevalent in the federations, deters potentially able and active young people from joining them and rising to leadership roles. Zionist party politics, it is argued, are antiquated in the diaspora and mean nothing to the new generation. Almogi did not want to commit himself. “I know the problem, I have not yet sufficiently studied it to formulate a firm opinion.”

NEED FOR INTENSIVE ZIONIST ACTIVITY

But he is determined, he said, “when elected,” to set about strengthening the Zionist federations widening their school and education networks, intensifying their informational work. “The UN committee resolution against Zionism obliges us more than ever to heighten Zionist activity.” Almogi said.

Almogi preferred not to be drawn into the arguments which Ambassador Chaim Herzog’s remarks two weeks ago aroused regarding the efficacy of American Jewry’s efforts to fight anti-Zionism. But he said: “The fact that more than four hundred Congressmen have signed the resolution condemning the UN resolution does not seem to suggest inactivity on the part of our friends….” Almogi spoke of his future career as WZO chairman with confidence. “When I am elected” was his turn of phrase, not “if.”

Several days ago a court in Haifa flatly rejected an effort by a local engineer, Moshe Meller, to have Almogi’s candidacy for the WZO chairmanship ruled illegal. The Haifa district court awarded the defendants–Almogi and the Labor Party–costs and dismissed Meller’s argument that Almogi must be kept to his pre-election promise to Haifa voters that he would serve out his term. The judge ruled that the issue was entirely political, not legal.

Almogi himself has explained that the promise, given before the Yom Kippur War, must be seen to take on a different perspective today after the war, and in the midst of the political crisis caused by the war. As WZO chairman, he believes, he can contribute to strengthening world Jewish resolve to beat that crisis.

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