Israel just completed its third national election in two years, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to claim victory and keep his right-wing coalition in power. With 99 percent of the votes counted as of press time, it is highly likely that he will be invited to form the next government.
Whether that thrills or enrages Bay Area Jews, one thing is certain. We had no say in the outcome. Even the tens of thousands of Israeli citizens living here, other than consular staff, couldn’t vote unless they flew back home to cast a ballot on March 2.
But there’s another, lesser known but vitally important way that Jewish adults around the world can vote right now to impact the future of Israel and the Jewish people. And that’s by taking part in the World Zionist Congress election.
The Congress convenes every five years in Jerusalem to, among other tasks, determine the leadership and influence the policies of such institutions as the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Jewish National Fund and Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal) — which together allocate nearly $1 billion annually in funding for Israel and Jewish communities around the world.
Making those decisions are 500 delegates representing 15 slates that span the Zionist ideological spectrum, as our story this week explains.
On the liberal end are slates such as ARZA, representing the Reform and Reconstructionist movements, as well as Hatikvah, made up of members of left-wing groups such as J Street, New Israel Fund and T’ruah. Their platforms call for the expanded embrace of religious diversity in Israel, equal rights for women and a return to serious negotiations with the Palestinians.
On the right, Herut and the Zionist Organization of America have slates, with platforms that stress security issues and the rights of Jews to settle in the West Bank. In addition, the Conservative movement has a slate, as do several Orthodox and Torah-based interests, among them two separate Sephardic slates. Even Israelis living abroad have formed two separate slates.
The politics among these slates diverge wildly. But delegates and WZC voters alike have one thing in common: all have sworn their acceptance of the Jerusalem Program, which is the official platform of the World Zionist Organization. Among its tenets, that document calls for recognizing the centrality of Israel to the Jewish people, encouraging aliyah and strengthening Israel as a democratic Zionist state.
So between now and March 11, go to zionistelection.org and vote for your favorite slate. It costs just $7.50 and will make a world of difference.