Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has given his support to a deal between Bayit Yehudi and Shas
in which both parties will support the candidacies of Rabbis Yaakov Ariel and
Shlomo Amar for the positions of Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbi,
respectively, Shas sources said on Monday.
According to party officials,
the Shas mentor appended a statement and his signature to a letter written by
Amar to prominent national-religious leader and Bayit Yehudi liaison Rabbi Haim
Druckman, saying that he supported the proposal detailed in Amar’s
Shas chairman Arye Deri confirmed Yosef had signed the letter at
the party’s Knesset faction meeting on Monday and said it was now down to Bayit
Yehudi to pass the requisite legislation.
For the deal to go through,
legislation must be passed allowing a serving chief rabbi to be elected for a
second term, in order that Amar can be reelected. A separate bill must be passed
to remove the age limit of 70 years old for chief rabbi candidates, in order to
allow Ariel to run, since he is 76.
The candidacy of Ariel has been
strongly advocated by Druckman and members of the Bayit Yehudi party, in part
because of pressure from conservative elements in the national-religious
community as well as concerns for the viability of a national-religious chief
rabbi candidate without Shas’s support.
Shas wields strong influence on
the 150-member chief rabbi electoral committee and Bayit Yehudi has been
concerned that the members loyal to the Sephardi haredi party would stymie
efforts to get a national-religious chief rabbi elected.
Last week, Bayit
Yehudi issued an ultimatum to Yosef, saying that either he publicly support the
deal or the party would nominate national-religious rabbis for both the Sephardi
and Ashkenazi chief rabbi positions and expand the electoral committee to 200
members, including reservation for 40 women, to dilute Shas’s influence on the
panel, thus paving the way for the appointment of two non-haredi
Yosef’s announcement will cause fresh headaches for Bayit
Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett. Following Deri’s announcement of Shas’s support
for the deal last week, Bayit Yehudi demanded a public statement from Yosef,
because it did not trust Deri to follow through on support for Ariel.
Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu, Hatnua, and today Labor, have all publicly backed
Rabbi David Stav, a liberalizing figure in the national-religious world, as
their preferred candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
coalition partners Yesh Atid and Hatnua have expressed opposition to legislation
designed for specific individuals.
Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni heads the
Ministerial Committee for Legislation, through which all bills must be approved
if they are to have coalition backing in the Knesset. She can therefore prevent
the legislation required to elect Amar and Ariel from getting government
In an interview with haredi website Kikar Hashabbat last week,
Deri said that he believed the chances of passing the legislation for Ariel to
run were slim.
He added that one of the achievements of the announcement
of his deal was that Bayit Yehudi had delayed a vote in the Ministerial
Committee for Legislation on the bill to expand the electoral committee,
proposed by Hatnua MK Elazar Stern.
Deri said that if the bill passed it
would be “a fatal blow to the Chief Rabbinate.”
“Because of what was
printed in the media... the bill was not brought to a vote and was delayed by
two or three weeks,” Deri noted in the interview.
He said however that
party would back the deal if the required legislation was passed.