Brother of Netanyahu’s Rival May Seek Jewish Agency Chair

The brother of a former minister who resigned after a well-publicized dispute with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emerged as a possible candidate for the chairmanship of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Netanyahu, however, was apparently less than enthusiastic about the nomination when three of the Likud Party’s coalition partners informed him last week that they support the candidacy of Salai Meridor.

Meridor, a senior minister in the Agency executive, is considered a popular choice.

But his elder brother, Dan, ran afoul of the prime minister earlier this year and was forced to resign as finance minister.

After he resigned, Dan Meridor strongly indicated that he plans to run against Netanyahu in the next vote for the Likud leadership.

Salai Meridor is believed to support his brother’s quest.

A delegation representing the National Religious Party, Tsomet and The Third Way met with Netanyahu at the prime minister’s initiative last week after each party had independently written to him endorsing Meridor’s candidacy for agency head.

After the meeting, a representative of one of the parties said they had found the prime minister “insultingly” noncommittal.

Knesset member Yehuda Harel of The Third Way told reporters that the premier had listened silently as he, along with fellow legislators Hanan Porat of NRP and Moshe Peled of Tsomet, endorsed Meridor.

After they spoke, according to Harel, Netanyahu said only, “I have heard you,” after which the three were ushered out.

Harel said the delegation came away feeling upset and insulted.

Harel added that the three parties are certain that Meridor would win broad support from Jewish Agency activists in Israel and abroad.

The Likud has struck a deal with Labor in which each side’s candidate will serve for half of the chairman’s four-year term, which begins with the December session of the Zionist Congress.

Under the statutes of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, the final list of candidates must be presented later this month.

The Labor Party’s candidate will be the incumbent chairman, Avraham Burg.

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