Outgoing WJC Chief Bronfman: Lauder Would Make Excellent President

NEW YORK - Ronald Lauder will probably be voted in as president of the World Jewish Congress in tonight's elections in New York, according to Edgar Bronfman, who recently resigned as WJC president. Bronfman's son Matthew will probably be elected chairman.

Although the relationship between the elder Bronfman and Lauder is not especially friendly, Bronfman said he welcomes Lauder's expected involvement.

"There are no schools of leadership and no perfect person," Bronfman said in an exclusive interview with Haaretz. "I, too, made mistakes [as president]." He said he believed Lauder and Matthew Bronfman would make "a good team."

"The WJC has done things and had achievements that other organizations have not," Bronfman said from his office on the 17th floor of the Seagram Building in Manhattan. He cited WJC's secret diplomacy, including with leaders of the former Soviet Union to promote Jewish interests and Israel's diplomatic goals.

Bronfman has not hesitated to criticize Israeli prime ministers. He once raised hackles in the American Jewish community in an article in the New York Times attacking then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir over his stance in the peace process.

Bronfman said the WJC would continue being a central factor among the Jewish people. He mentioned the recent election of Rabbi Marc Shneier as chairman of the WJC's American Section. "He is a capable man," Bronfman said.

Bronfman was also favorable about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Three years ago Olmert sat in my apartment and explained the demographic threat Israel is facing," Bronfman said. He blamed the Palestinians for the frozen diplomatic process.

However, Bronfman also said that "many in Israel are proud that they are Israelis. They also should be more proud that they are Jewish.

I am still against the settlements and the settlement policy," he said. "But the settlements are not the major concern now. The real threat is Iran."

Commenting of the upcoming presidential elections in Israel, Bronfman said "the Knesset will be making a huge mistake if it doesn't elect Shimon Peres."

He said his family might increase its investments in Israel in the future, although there were no concrete plans at present.