The Knesset approved Wednesday a preliminary reading of a bill that would change the law limiting a chief rabbi’s term to 10 years. According to a proposal by MK Eli Aflalo (Kadima), backed by other members of his party, chief rabbis – including those currently in office – would be permitted to put forth their candidacy for another term.
Aflalo explained in March that he was merely reversing the abnormal situation created by the law limiting the chief rabbis’ term, which was aimed against former Chief Rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Shlomo Goren.
Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger are nearing the end of their terms in office, which finish in 2013, and elements within Shas, as well as some senior members of the government, are seeking ways to keep Amar in his position.
Aflalo’s bill received the backing of the government, and passed with 43 MKs in support and six against.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) slammed the bill and called it “personal legislation totally against constitutional norms.”
“Beyond the fundamental breach of legislation in this proposal, Amar’s
adjudications and positions do not justify the continuation of his
term,” Horowitz said, noting “the impossible difficulties Amar is
creating to recognizing Orthodox conversions from abroad and not solving
the IDF conversion crisis,” as well as other issues in which Amar
proved stringent and unstatesmanlike.
Horowitz also noted that in the Knesset hearing ahead of the vote,
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin harshly criticized the bill, and refrained
from voting on it.
The Masorti (Conservative) movement’s director-general Yizhar Hess called
the bill “unworthy,” and lamented the fact that “instead of canceling
the Chief Rabbinate, which is becoming more and more haredi, or at least
steadily diminishing its powers so that it might cease from abusing the
public, the Knesset – with the support of members of Kadima and Labor –
has decided to fortify the status of the chief rabbis.”