Jewish Agency Sets Sunday Deadline After Top Candidate for Chair Drops Out

Lapid sought to delay vote on high-profile position after government-backed Elazar Stern withdrew from the race over comments on handling of sexual assault complaints during his time as an army general

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Elazar Stern, in August.
Elazar Stern, in August.Credit: Emil Salman
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

The Jewish Agency has decided against delaying the vote for its new chair, the organization said in a letter sent Wednesday to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, as center-left parties and non-Orthodox movements scramble to find a candidate for the high-profile position.

Lapid had requested more time after the government’s candidate, Minister Elazar Stern, withdrew from the race over highly criticized comments on handling of sexual assault complaints during his time as an army general.

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The selection committee said it will accept new nominations by Sunday at 4 P.M. The board of governors was scheduled to approve a candidate at its upcoming meeting on October 26.

Stern was the only candidate to enjoy the backing of the heads of the new government, as all the other candidates are either members of the right-wing Likud, have some sort of affiliation with the party or identify strongly with the right-wing camp.

Center-left parties are now searching for a new "big name" who could represent them at the Jewish Agency instead of Stern.

One of the personalities that are being considered is Tzipi Livni, a former leader of center-left opposition who retired from politics in 2019 and is set to serve as chairwoman of the government company responsible for building the Tel Aviv light rail system.

Another prominent figure who was approached but declined candidacy is Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, a distinguished economist and former Labor Party lawmaker who recently assumed a new position as executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

On Tuesday, Elazar Stern, who will continue to serve as intelligence minister in the government, withdrew from the race following a public outcry over his suggestion in a radio interview earlier the week that he habitually shredded complaints about sexual harassment while serving as head of the army’s manpower division.

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