Zionist Congress swings to the left

At least one "election" turned left this week: Britain's delegation to the Zionist Congress in Jerusalem.

After horse-trading which almost puts Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in the shade, the majority of Britain's delegation will come from the religious and political left.

The Zionist Supreme Court has issued a ruling on the UK's 19 delegates following appeals from the Progressive religious Zionist movement, Pro-Zion, and the Jewish Labour Movement.

Now Pro-Zion has been awarded five places, the Masorti Zionist movement Mercaz, three, and the JLM/Meretz combined faction, two.

This makes 10 places from the left and centre-left groupings, while the right and centrist groups get the rest.

Henry Smith, an executive member of the JLM, said: "It is now a fairer reflection of the make-up of the Zionist groupings in this country."

Four years ago, when British Zionists were able to elect their representation to the last Congress online, it was agreed that this year's delegation should be simply carved up among the Zionist parties, based on their nominal memberships.

This was to save the cost of an election, estimated in 2006 at around £35,000 - although the 2006 result was contested, and changed after protests to the Zionist Supreme Court.

While Pro-Zion, Masorti, Labour and United Zionists reached agreement this year, others disagreed with the proposed allocation of seats. The World Zionist Organisation's central elections committee then intervened, giving Mizrachi six seats and Pro-Zion five, Herut two and Labour/Meretz just one. But this has now been revised in line with the Zionist court ruling.

Four years ago, Mizrachi had six seats, Pro-Zion four, Mercaz three, United two, Herut two and Labour/Meretz one.

Solly Sacks, director-general of World Mizrachi, acknowledged that the movement had struggled in the UK, and at one point even "closed down. We have been rebuilding it."

A spokesman for Mizrachi UK said: "Mizrachi was the only party in the UK to request democratic elections for the Zionist Congress.

Following several meetings, the decision was reached, without the consent of Mizrachi, not to go to elections.

"Therefore, the Zionist Supreme Court made the final decision and Mizrachi will hold by this agreement."

The Israeli- and American-dominated Congress meets every four years to elect the leadership of the World Zionist Organisation.

The WZO has little power of its own but its representatives make up half of the Jewish Agency, which spends around £210 million a year on diaspora education, aliyah and Israel programmes.

    Last updated: 1:05pm, May 13 2010