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 rabbi.

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 national-religious movement.

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.

“The 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.

An 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.

Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and Hatnua have all publicly endorsed Stav and are not willing to pass the requisite legislation to permit Ariel’s candidacy.

Yesh Atid 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 for.”

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 party.

“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 candidacy.

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.

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