Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel, the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and president of Tzohar, who
was touted last week as a possible compromise national-religious candidate for
the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, will likely not submit himself
as a candidate, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
It was reported last week
that national-religious leader Rabbi Haim Druckman was formulating a deal to
have Ariel nominated by Bayit Yehudi as candidate for chief
Although the chances of having a national-religious candidate have
been strengthened by the significant gains made by Bayit Yehudi in the general
election, its control of the Religious Services Ministry, and the ouster of Shas
and United Torah Judaism from government, there are still significant obstacles
ahead for the movement.
One of the main difficulties is the number of
representatives on the 150-man electoral committee for the chief rabbis who are
loyal to Shas.
Ariel is more palatable to Shas than Rabbi David Stav, a
leading national-religious candidate and chairman of Tzohar who is loathed by
the haredi world. Stav is also disliked by the more conservative wing of the
Druckman and Deputy Minister for Religious
Services Eliahu Ben-Dahan of Bayit Yehudi have therefore been trying to close a
deal with Shas whereby the haredi party will support the national-religious
candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi, while Bayit Yehudi will help pass
legislation that will enable current Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to stand
for another 10-year term, currently prohibited by law.
Shas would be
unwilling to support Stav but would be more inclined to agree to a deal if Ariel
were the candidate.
But a political source within the national-religious
camp told the Post that there was little chance of Ariel standing.
deal initiated by Rabbi Druckman was done without Ariel’s consultation and he
does not support it,” the source said.
Even the report last week by
Israel HaYom on the possible candidacy of Ariel had the rabbi quoted as saying
that he had first found out about the possible deal through the media.
additional problem is that Ariel is 79, ruling him out from standing for chief
rabbi unless legislation was passed in the Knesset permitting a candidate over
the age of 70 to stand for the position.
In a letter published on
Tzohar’s Facebook page on Friday, Stav wrote that the organization had looked
into the possibility of getting such legislation passed several months ago,
before the elections, but concluded it was not feasible.
Yisrael Beytenu and Hatnua have all publicly endorsed Stav and are not willing
to pass the requisite legislation to permit Ariel’s candidacy.
MK Rabbi Dov Lipman told the Post that although the party has not discussed the
issue since its initial endorsement, it was unlikely that it would step away
from its support for Stav.
“We backed Rabbi Stav because we think he
would bring positive change for the State of Israel and I don’t seeing Yesh Atid
turning away from that,” said Lipman. “We very much believe in what he stands
Last week, Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie expressed opposition to
legislation designed specifically for assisting individuals, as would be
required to allow Ariel to stand, which is a position generally held by the
“Yesh Atid already declared its support for Rabbi Stav, and this
support remains in place,” she added.
In his letter, Stav claimed that a
majority of representatives on the electoral committee for chief rabbi had
expressed support for his candidacy.
Stav also said that Druckman had
approached him last week and asked him to help pave the way for Ariel to be
elected. Stav said he would do so and would not consider running against Ariel,
but added that the chances were slim.
Additionally, Stav claimed that
Ariel himself had publicly stated at a recent conference of Tzohar rabbis that
he was not interested in standing for the position, which he unsuccessfully
contested in the last election 10 years ago.
Stav wrote that “a campaign
of slander” was being waged against him “from certain quarters” to stymie his
He was most likely referring to elements of the conservative
wing of the national religious- movement who are deeply opposed to Stav’s
liberal tendencies. Rabbis and national-religious leaders from the Har Hamor
yeshiva have been frequently pointed to as a leading source of opposition to
Stav. A spokesman for Ariel would not confirm whether he had made a decision yet
on his candidacy.