Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday recommended that Natan Sharansky be appointed to a second four-year term as chairman of the Jewish Agency.
Addressing the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, Netanyahu called Sharansky a “symbol of Jewish unity and triumph of the Jewish people over adversity.”
Sharansky’s term as chairman of the global organization is due to end this June. In past years, the prime minister of Israel was at liberty to appoint the chairman of the quasi-governmental agency at his own discretion, but more recently, that decision has required the approval of the Board of Governors.
In his role as chairman of the Jewish Agency, Sharansky – the world’s most famous Jewish dissident – has put greater emphasis on building bridges between Israel and Diaspora Jewry and less focus on what was traditionally the organization’s outstanding mission: promoting aliyah.
One of the most contentious Israel-Diaspora issues that Sharansky has been actively engaged in resolving of late is government policy concerning prayer at the Western Wall. Recent clashes between police and members of Women of the Wall, a women’s group that holds a monthly prayers service at the wall, have provoked outrage in the non-Orthodox Jewish world, prompting the prime minister to seek Sharansky’s intervention.
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