The Zionist Congress established by Herzl,is the supreme organ of the World Zionist Organization and its legislative authority. Article 13 of the WZO Constitution stipulates: “An Ordinary Congress shall meet at least once in four years at a place and time determined by the Council. It shall be convened by the Executive”. Notwithstanding, the Constitution allows postponement of the Congress for special reasons, and subject to a vote. Accordingly, the last few Congresses were held approximately every five years, the most recent one being in October 2020. It should be noted that the first five Zionist Congresses were held annually.
Powers of the Congress
- The Congress elects the Chairman of the Zionist Executive, the Vice-Chairman, the members of the Executive, the members of the Zionist General Council and their deputies, the President of the Zionist Supreme Court, the Attorney of the World Zionist Organization and the Comptroller.
- The Congress receives and considers the reports of the Zionist Executive and of the Institutions of the World Zionist Organization.
- The Congress receives and resolves upon the report of the Comptroller.
- The Congress, in its committees, deliberates proposals brought before the Congress by the Congress delegates of the Zionist General Council, the members of the Congress Presidium, the Zionist Executive and the Zionist Federations. The conclusions of the committees are put to the vote in the plenary of the Congress.
- The Congress draws up the policy of the World Zionist Organization, including the financial policy.
In the inter-Congress period many of the Congress powers are assumed by the Zionist General Council, including the authority to amend the Constitution.
Composition of the Congress
The number of delegates to Congress, apart from those elected on World Election Lists and those representing International Bodies, will not exceed 500. In pursuance of Section 2 of the same Article, the Zionist General Council may resolve, not later than one year before Congress meets, to increase this number by not more than 5%. In pursuance of Section 3 therein, the number of delegates to Congress will be allocated in the following proportion:Israel 38%,United States of America 29%, other countries of the Diaspora 33%.
In the case of countries of the Diaspora, an overall number is given, but the number of delegates from each country is determined, prior to each Congress, by a special Committee, which takes into account in its decisions, inter alia, the size of the Jewish population and all the Zionist achievements in each country, such as: the number of Zionist Federation members, Aliyah, Appeals, and Jewish education. (At the 34th Congress in addition to the 500 delegates an additional 32 delegates, with full voting rights, were allocated to the FSU, in accordance with the decision of the Zionist General Council from 2001, Resolution 47.)
Membership of Organizations in the World Zionist Organization
Since the new WZO Constitution came into force in 1960, there has been no personal membership in the World Zionist Organization. Only organizations can be members. An individual Zionist can belong to the World Zionist Organization only indirectly, through one of the member organizations.
The Central Elections Committee
The Chairman of the Central Elections Committee and the members of the Committee are appointed by the President of the Zionist Supreme Court. The Committee is chaired by a judge or judge emeritus in Israel. Factions which participated in the previous Zionist Congress participate in the Committee as observers.
The Area Election Committee
The Area Election Committee determines the method of elections and conduct of the elections in each area/country where there is a Zionist Federation, which is a member of the World Zionist Organization. Elections to the Congress must be held no later than three months prior to the Congress.
The Zionist World Unions
“Zionist World Union” refers to a Zionist organization, which represents a special ideological point of view within the World Zionist Organization, has branches in at least 5 countries, and is represented by a Congress Grouping.
The Zionist World Unions are:
- World Zionist Union: Labor Zionist Movement–Arzenu–World Union of Meretz
- United Faction: Kadima–HaNoar Hatzioni–MERCAZ
- World Mizrachi/Ichud Le’umi/Herut/Yisrael Beytenu
- World Likud/Shas
The International Jewish Organizations
Since the Twenty-Eighth Zionist Congress (1972), the international Jewish organizations have been represented in the Zionist Congress, provided that they accept the Jerusalem Program, even if not all their members are declared Zionists (unlike the World Unions, in which every member must be a declared Zionist). These bodies have limited voting rights – they do not vote on matters of candidature and elections to the institutions of the WZO.
The International Jewish Organizations are:
- Bnai Brith International
- Maccabi WorldUnion
- WIZO Women’s International Zionist Organization
- World Council of Conservative Masorti Synagogues
- World Emunah
- World Organization of Orthodox Synagogues & Communities in Israel and the Diaspora
- World Sephardi Federation
- World Union for Progressive Judaism
- World Union of Jewish Students
- Zionist Council in Israel
The student representatives and the representatives of the Zionist Council in Israel have the same status as representatives of the international Jewish organizations.
Zionist Organizations with Special Status
There are two women’s organizations which have special status in the Zionist Organization:
- WIZO – is an international, non-party Zionist body, which receives global representation by virtue of an agreement entered into in 1964. WIZO enjoys full voting rights, like the World Unions.
- Hadassah – received special status by virtue of a decision of the Zionist General Council, in 1994. Hadassah enjoys full voting rights.
The above-mentioned bodies make up the Zionist Congress.
Participants in Congress in an Advisory Capacity and Observers
In addition to the delegates with full voting rights participating in Congress, there are also participants in an advisory capacity only. These participants are entitled to participate in debates but have no voting rights.
These delegates are divided into two groups:
- Certain office holders, for instance members of the Zionist Executive, members of the Zionist General Council who were not elected as delegates to Congress, Chairs of the Zionist Federations, judicial office holders – the President of the Zionist Supreme Court, the Attorney, the Comptroller and representatives of the Aliyah Movement.
- The Zionist Executive or the Congress Presidium may invite “personalities and representatives of bodies whose presence at Congress, in the view of the Executive or the Presidium is necessary or desirable” (Regulation 7A of the Standing Orders of the Zionist Congress) as observers with no speaking or voting rights.
The Course of the Congress
The Zionist Congress is conducted by the Congress Presidium. Congress deliberations are divided into five stages:
- Opening of the Congress, including a speech by the Chairman of the Executive, and other speeches determined in the agenda, election of the Congress Presidium, the report of the President of the Zionist Supreme Court on the election results, reports of the members of the Zionist Executive in supplement to the printed report, election of the Congress committees.
- Election of the new Executive, according to the proposal of the Congress Standing Committee.
- Meetings of the committees.
- Reports of the committees and voting on the draft resolutions presented by them. The report of the Standing Committee and voting on its proposals for members of the Zionist General Council, the Comptroller and the Legal Institutions.
- Congress closing ceremony.