NEW YORK (Jul. 2)
Simcha Dinitz will continue to chair the executives of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency, as a result of a deal reached by Labor and Likud in the aftermath of the Israeli elections.
Under the deal, Labor will have control of the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption Department, as well as Youth Aliyah, while the Treasury will remain in the hands of Likud.
The agreement buries whatever hopes remained for the insurgent campaign of Rabbi Richard Hirsch from Arzeinu, the international Reform Zionist movement which is the parent body of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, ARZA.
Hirsch had launched his campaign after the other American Zionist groups refused to hold full-scale elections for the American delegation to the 32nd Zionist Congress, which opens July 26.
The congress appoints the leadership of the World Zionist Organization and half that of the Jewish Agency.
While there had been speculation that Dinitz would strike back at Hirsch’s candidacy by excluding the Reform movement from WZO’s usual wall-to-wall coalition, Dinitz said he was convinced the Reform movement would be included.
ARZA is claiming victory after the Zionist Supreme Court, which oversees disputes in the Zionist movement, decreed that from now on, delegates to the congress be elected democratically.
But for this month’s congress, the court approved a proposal for allocating delegates among the various parties that was drawn up by the Area Elections Committee of the American Zionist Federation.
Under the plan, the 152 American delegates will be distributed as they were four years ago for the previous congress.
In addition, 10 delegates have been added to the American contingent by the WZO’s Action Committee, at the request of the Americans. One of these delegates will go to Tehiya USA, which joined the Zionist movement since the last Congress.
The other nine will be divided between Mizrachi, the Orthodox Zionist movement, and Americans for Progressive Israel, which identifies with Mapam, the left-wing party that is now part of the Meretz bloc.
These two parties were penalized before the last congress for irregularities found in their membership rosters, which were used to assemble the voting roll for the Zionist elections.
Both penalized groups argued at the time that the penalties were unfair, since it was by no means clear that the voters corresponded to the people improperly entered on the voting roll.
They pointed out that one of the Zionist parties received more votes than it had registered members, even though only about 25 percent of those eligible participated in the 1987 balloting by mail.
“To penalize us one time is one thing; to repeat it again is outrageous,” said Stefanie Kirschner, API’s delegate to the Area Elections Committee.
But ARZA opposed eliminating the penalties.
“We consider it to be totally unjustified, rewarding them for fraud,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, executive director of ARZA until July 1, when he became vice president and director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Commission on Social Action.
Despite losing his fight against the extra delegates, Yoffie praised the court for agreeing with his demand that a method of democratic elections be held for the next congress.
One proposal for this congress, to hold an “electoral college,” was approved by the Zionist groups other than ARZA. But it was rejected in Jerusalem as not conforming to the principle of one-person, one-vote.
Under the court’s ruling, if a democratic method to select the delegation is not selected by the end of 1993, the court will impose a method of its choosing.
The ruling, and the Israeli election two days later, places Tehiya USA in an odd position. Its Israeli counterpart will not be represented in the Zionist Congress, since it won no Knesset seats in the Israeli elections. The Israeli delegation to the congress is apportioned in proportion to the Knesset delegations.
(JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)