As official WZO chairman, Burg outlines new plans

JERUSALEM — Avraham Burg has been officially elected chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

The election came at Monday's opening session of the Zionist General Council. The council is the supreme legislative body of the Zionist Congress, which convenes every four years.

The 192 delegates of the Zionist General Council voted unanimously for Burg, who has served as acting chairman of the WZO/Jewish Agency for Israel since February.

Burg is expected to be ratified as chairman of the Jewish Agency when the Agency Assembly convenes here beginning on Sunday.

Once ratified, Burg is expected to resign from his Labor Knesset seat.

In his inauguration speech, Burg called for the reorganization and restructuring of the two bodies that have been the central vehicles for Israel-diaspora relations.

In mapping out his plans, Burg repeated his slogan, "One People — One Body" in connection with the Jewish Agency and the WZO.

Although he did not detail specifics in his opening speech, Burg left little doubt that he was referring to a much talked about merger between the organizations.

Such a plan would effectively close the WZO down as an independent organization.

Today, the WZO, which promotes aliyah and Zionist activities, acts as an equal partner in the Jewish Agency, which spends more than $400 million annually on bringing immigrants to Israel and resettling them and on other social services in Israel.

The Jewish Agency's money comes from the United Jewish Appeal and the Keren Hayesod.

The WZO receives its budget of roughly $30 million from an arrangement reached with the Jewish Agency.

Burg assured the delegates that any changes in the Jewish Agency and WZO would come as a result of discussions, debate, compromise and consent.

In his opening speech, he also outlined his vision for the future relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.

His blueprint, called "Brit Am — the People's Covenant," which was also distributed in the form of a booklet, depicts in rather vague terms the relationship between Israel and the diaspora.

The relationship, he said, needs rejuvenation and a strong infusion of Jewish education.