Pinkas' Job in U.S. Depends on Easing Cooling-off Criteria

Whether or not Alon Pinkas, former Israeli consul-general in New York, receives the job of director of the American Jewish Congress depends on whether he meets the cooling-off period criteria set by the Civil Service, said Juda Engelmayer, the AJC spokesman.

"If Pinkas doesn't get permission, he won't get the job," Engelmayer said.

Pinkas handed Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom his resignation in July 2004 after the minister ended his term as consul. He has since appeared widely as a commentator and lecturer, and is represented by the Greater Talent Network where he is listed as a foreign relations expert.

Jewish community sources in New York say the AJC will tend to be against hiring someone who has had a falling-out with an Israeli minister for such a central position, as such a person could have a detrimental affect on official dealings with Israel.

Seymour Reich, former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told Haaretz, "I have the same opinion as I did a few months ago, that it is bad for the community for a former senior Israeli diplomat to head a Jewish organization." Reich says that "an appointment like this will cause confusion because the public will not know if the Jewish organizations in America are independent or if they are directed according to the dictates of an Israeli diplomat."

Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, expressed his dismay at the time over the intention to appoint Pinkas head of the AJC.

In a letter to Foreign Ministry deputy director general Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander stated that if reports are correct that Pinkas is considering the AJC appointment, he should be apprised of the fact that he cannot take the position, or work as a lecturer or commentator, without authorization from the Civil Service cooling-off committee. Hollander, however, noted that Pinkas could volunteer his services. Hollander stressed that non-compliance with this rule is a criminal act punishable by imprisonment.

New York Jewish community figures say they are aware that the Foreign Ministry has recommended not acceding to Pinkas' request that his cooling-off period be shortened.

A spokesman for the Courts Administration stated that to the best of his knowledge, no request has been submitted to the cooling-off committee with regard to Alon Pinkas.

The committee, headed by District Court Judge Michaela Shidlowsky Or, operates by virtue of the Public Service Law which states that individuals who have fulfilled a state function abroad need authorization for two years following the conclusion of their service before taking up employment or a position in the country in which they were stationed. The justice minister is responsible for the workings of the committee and appoints its members.