Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan has ironed out an agreement in which the haredi parties – United Torah Judaism and Shas – and his national-religious Bayit Yehudi Party will cooperate in the elections for the Council of the Chief Rabbinate.
The 16-member council, which includes the two chief rabbis, is elected every five years.
This time around, however, it appears that the current members will all be reelected in accordance with the deal worked out by Ben-Dahan and agreed to by Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef.
All sides are anxious to avoid the kind of bitter campaigning that characterized the recent elections for the chief rabbis, which bore witness to heavy political maneuvering and machinations, as well as the dredging up of several scandals involving alleged impropriety on the part of some of the candidates.
The two chief rabbis are automatically part of the council, along with the chief rabbis of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba. There is currently no Jerusalem chief rabbi, however, so that spot will also be among the 10 open slots on the council.
According to the agreement, Bayit Yehudi, Shas and UTJ will instruct the delegates on 150- member electoral committee, the same body that elected the chief rabbis, to vote for the current members.
The majority of the members are haredi, although Rabbis Shmuel Eliyahu, Yaakov Shapira and IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen Rafi Peretz, who has non-voter observer status on the council, are from the national-religious sector, with several others such as Rabbi Ratzon Arusi and Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau falling somewhere in between the two camps.
Each member of the electoral committee gets 10 votes which they may cast for 10 candidates.
Ben-Dahan met with several MKs and representatives of the haredi political parties on Wednesday in order to reach the agreement.
Sources within Bayit Yehudi have been critical of the Likud party for failing to delay the election until after the October 22 municipal elections.
A bill authored by Ben-Dahan last Knesset term proposed to delay the election because of its proximity to the municipal elections and the likelihood that city mayors and chairmen of regional councils would be to too preoccupied to come to Jerusalem to vote.
Such members are more likely to vote for non-haredi candidates, and the bill noted that their failure to vote could skew the balance of the council “against the public interest.”
Although the government approved the bill to continue through the legislative process in the Knesset, it was not brought to its first reading before the Knesset summer recess.
Sources in Bayit Yehudi blamed the Likud for refusing to allow a recess sitting of the Knesset to pass the legislation.
The Council of the Chief Rabbinate is an important body which makes decisions on Jewish law regarding marriage, marriage registration, burial and kashrut.