The fact that the position of Jewish Agency chair was left unfilled for an entire year, ever since Isaac Herzog used the post as a springboard to that of Israel’s president, constitutes further proof of the superfluousness of this archaic organization. The State of Israel and the People of Israel continued to exist as before, and it’s doubtful whether Israeli citizens or Diaspora Jews felt the absence of a permanent leader.
After a year of political wrangling, the retired general Doron Almog was chosen as the new chair. Almog did not ask for this position; he does not seek power, and he owes nothing to the politicians and functionaries who brought about his appointment. As a result, he of all people can and should ask the difficult and necessary questions regarding the organization he will be heading.
Almog was chosen for this position due to the rare public consensus that surrounds him. In contrast to his predecessors in the job from David Ben-Gurion to Herzog, he was never involved in politics. In the past two decades, since his retirement from the military, he has devoted himself to the establishment and operation of the ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village, for children and young adults intended for people with severe disabilities, among other important projects. He is a practical-minded person who knows how to recruit agencies and private donors in Israel and overseas to causes he believes in. His fundraising abilities also made him a worthy candidate to head an organization that depends on donations from Diaspora Jews.
Almog is now entering an organization that is very different from ones that he has known. The objectives of the Jewish Agency are not clearly defined, and not by chance. The worthy activity of the Jewish Agency should be within the purview of Israel’s government or private philanthropies. If in the past the agency was responsible for encouraging aliyah – Jewish immigration to Israel – and maintaining Israel’s ties with the Jewish Diaspora, these tasks are now being carried out by relevant government ministries. There is no need for a parallel mechanism that, like the other “national institutions” such as the Jewish National Fund and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, are used mainly as slush funds for conducting political tasks far from the eyes of the state comptroller. Israel has no need for these organizations and Diaspora Jews have no interest in them. They are mainly hotbeds of corruption and nepotism.
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It can only be hoped that Almog, as soon as he learns the secret workings of the organization he leads, will refuse to continue to schnorr from the world’s Jews in order to fund an organization that lost its reason for existing when the state was founded. As a person who, in contrast to many other retired generals, did not seek to line his pockets by selling weapons or to leverage his military rank for a quick leap into a senior civilian position, his mission now must be to shut down the Jewish Agency, once and for all.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.