A bill presented by MK Zvulun Kalfa of Bayit Yehudi to pave the way for a political deal to elect Rabbi Yaakov Ariel as Ashkenazi chief rabbi and reelect incumbent Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar was withdrawn from the agenda of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

Kalfa and Bayit Yehudi most likely withdrew the bill because it does not have enough support in the committee to pass at this stage.

Coalition parties Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and Hatnua have all publicly backed Rabbi David Stav for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi, while Yesh Atid and Hatnua have said that they are opposed to legislation designed to specifically benefit certain individuals in any arena, including the race for the chief rabbinate.

Stav serves as the chairman of the national religious rabbinical association Tzohar.

On Saturday night, a group of senior national-religious rabbis from the conservative wing of the movement convened at the house of Rabbi Haim Druckman, who has been serving as the rabbinic liaison for Bayit Yehudi on the chief rabbi issue, and called strongly on Stav to drop out of the race in favor of Ariel.

It is unclear however what more the faction opposed to Stav can now do to advance the legislation required to actualize the Amar-Ariel deal.

The bill may be brought up again for debate in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation next Sunday but it remains unlikely that the ministers opposing the legislation will change their minds by then.

And Stav received renewed support from senior national religious figure Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, who publicly opposed the political deal for electing Amar and Ariel in an interview published in the weekend edition of Makor Rishon. Lichtenstein said that although he greatly admired Ariel, he didn’t think it was fitting for him to be given the position “by entering through the backdoor like a thief in the night, with a special law... I wouldn’t want Rabbi Ariel to be remembered in this manner by future generations.”

Lichtenstein, a member of the so-called “Seven Elders” club of senior national religious rabbis, added that he believed Stav is the right candidate, repeating the public backing he has given Stav in the past.

“Rabbi Stav is a man of the Torah, who has concern for Halacha and a sense of responsibility to the state from a religious and spiritual perspective,” Lichtenstein said.

In a press statement following the withdrawal of the bill, Tzohar said that it was “clear without doubt” that the Amar-Ariel deal would now not work.

The organization called on “the entire public who believes in the importance of the chief rabbinate to the State of Israel to work with all its strength for the election of Rabbi Stav.”

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