WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Likud party officials have endorsed the pro-settler Zionist Organization of America slate in the World Zionist Congress elections underway amid a push by a left-wing slate trying to stop settler funding.
“They have been courageously defending the Jewish people and the State of Israel, without hesitation, without apology, they stood up proudly for the rights of our people and our state,” Netanyahu said in a 30-second video.
The Congress controls about $1 billion annually in funding for Zionist institutions and has a role in naming the top professionals in those institutions.
ZOA’s campaign this year is aimed at countering a push by the Hatikvah slate to double its representation. Hatikvah is expressly campaigning to steer funding away from West Bank settlements.
A vote for ZOA, its campaign says, means “assuring the Jewish people’s rights to our land.”
Online voting for the American Jewish portion of the next World Zionist Congress, a five-year term comprising 152 seats, about a third of the Congress, is underway until March 11.
A separate ZOA video endorsing its right-wing slate features other leading figures in Likud such as former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz.
The ZOA list currently holds seven of the 145 seats in the American portion of the outgoing World Zionist Congress, and Hatikvah controls eight. The vast majority of the American seats are controlled by the Zionist affiliates of the Reform and Conservative movements, respectively Arza and Mercaz.
The number of apportioned seats changes from Congress to Congress, depending on demographics. Another third of the Congress seats are assigned to the non-American Jewish Diaspora, and the final third is apportioned to Israeli political parties based on Knesset election results.
Notably, a hefty portion of the main ZOA campaign video features the World Likud chairman, Yaakopv Hagoel, speaking in Hebrew. There are two slates this election competing for the increasingly influential Israeli-American community, Israel Shelanu and Kol Israel.