JERUSALEM (Aug. 26)
In public at least, Simcha Dinitz is continuing to exude an air of confidence that he will be able to hold onto his job as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, despite an apparent recommendation by the police that he be indicted for misuse of funds.
But within the Labor Party, there is already speculation on who should succeed him.
The police still have not publicized their findings, but it has been widely reported here that they recommended Dinitz be indicted for embezzling as much as $70,000 worth of Jewish Agency money through the misuse of his official credit card.
The file now rests with Attorney General Yosef Harish. His office has estimated that it will take weeks to examine the evidence before deciding on an indictment.
Harish has been accused in the past of pursuing politically charged investigations with less than deliberate speed, particularly that of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, which has dragged on for years.
The connection between the two cases has been noted by commentators here. There had been speculation that an indictment of Dinitz prior to or at the same time as the long-expected indictment of Deri on fraud charges would deflect accusations that Deri and his colleagues of the Sephardic Shas party have been targeted out of ethnic or anti-Orthodox prejudice.
For Dinitz, the next moment of decision comes next week, when the Jewish Agency Executive meets on Tuesday and Wednesday. The leadership of the United Jewish Appeal and Keren Hayesod fund-raising campaigns for the Jewish Agency are expecting a decision by then on Dinitz’s future.
It is unclear, under the Jewish Agency constitution, whether the Executive could suspend Dinitz, even if it wanted to. But word among fund-raising circles is that Max Fisher, the founding chairman of the Jewish Agency, is currently considering proposals under which Dinitz would retire and his pension would be secured.
On Thursday, the Israeli members of the Jewish Agency Executive urged that no action be taken against Dinitz until the attorney general decides whether or not to indict him.
Similar statements had been made previously from the American members of the Executive who represent the World Zionist Organization, and by 17 Zionist federations around the world, including those in the United States, Australia and Chile.
TREASURER URGES HIM TO STEP ASIDE
But these public expressions of support may be waning.
Jewish Agency Treasurer Hanan Ben Yehuda told Israel Television’s evening news broadcast Wednesday night that Dinitz should step aside.
And one of the 15 Labor Party Knesset members who signed a statement supporting Dinitz complained that it had been released after the police recommended indictment this week, even though he had signed it three weeks ago.
Others who signed it, however, said that until an indictment is handed down, they will stand by Dinitz.
Meanwhile, two people mentioned as replacements for Dinitz in the event that he steps down or is removed from office have publicly denied interest in his job.
In New York, both Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gad Yaacobi, and Uzi Narkiss, head of the WZO delegation to the United States, issued statements denying news reports of their interest in the post.
Others cited by the Israeli press have included Agriculture Minister Ya’acov Tsur; Knesset member Avraham Burg; Moki Tsur, head of the United Kibbutz Movement; and Moshe Nativ, the Jewish Agency’s director-general.
(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondent Cynthia Mann in Jerusalem and JTA staff writer Larry Yudelson in New York.)