TEL AVIV (Dec. 3)
Simcha Dinitz was nominated by a narrow margin Thursday night to be the Labor Party’s candidate for the office of chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executive.
It is the highest of several posts to be elected at the World Zionist Congress, which opens in Jerusalem Sunday.
The nomination, by the party’s central committee, came two days after diaspora philanthropists on the Jewish Agency Board of Governors gave Dinitz their unanimous endorsement. Only 1,077 of the central committee’s 1,250 members cast ballots. Dinitz won the nomination by a vote of 552-525, a plurality of 27 votes.
This despite the fact that his only challenger, Nissim Zvilli, head of the WZO’s settlement department, was considered the weakest candidate. A more formidable opponent, former Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur, dropped out of the race Wednesday, furious over the nod given Dinitz by the overseas philanthropists.
The diaspora leaders’ decision was announced in a letter sent Tuesday by Mendel Kaplan, chairman of the Board of Governors, to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Party. Kaplan urged Peres to “take this into account in order to avoid the indignities of the recent past.”
FOLLOWS REJECTION OF LEWINSKY
He was apparently referring to the bitter reaction in the Labor Party and the Labor Zionist movement over the diaspora philanthropists’ unanimous rejection in October of Akiva Lewinsky, the man whom Labor had already chosen as its candidate for the WZO-Jewish Agency chairmanship. Lewinsky withdrew last week amid protests against the “interference” of the overseas Jewish leaders.
Dinitz, 58, a Labor member of the Knesset, served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 1973-78 and was a close confidant and political adviser to the late Premier Golda Meir. He is well known and well liked by the American Jewish community.
Yitzhak Modai, head of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, had predicted earlier that Likud’s choice for the WZO-Jewish Agency chairmanship, Minister of Science and Technology Gideon Patt, would have an easy win over Zvilli, were he to be nominated by Labor, but a hard fight against Dinitz.
Now, in light of Dinitz’s victory, the Likud leadership may decide at its meeting Friday to drop Patt, a Likud-Liberal, in favor of former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, a tough-talking veteran of the party’s Herut wing. Arens also served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington from 1982-83, before he became defense minister, and was well liked by American Jews.