Despite reports in the haredi press, sources close to Rabbi Shlomo Amar continue to insist he is not running for the position of Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.
Haredi media reported on Monday that Amar and the national-religious candidate for the Ashkenazi position, Rabbi Arye Stern, had come to an agreement to provide mutual support for their respective candidacies.
Sources close to both rabbis told The Jerusalem Post that no such deal exists.
Stern is supported by Bayit Yehudi and has significant support among the non-religious political parties in the Jerusalem municipality, including Mayor Nir Barkat.
His campaign team are confident that he will obtain at least 25 votes from the 48 members of the electoral body and have said that he therefore does not require any political deals to secure his election.
Amar, the former Sephardi chief rabbi, has been rumored for some time to be interested in the position. However, he is also widely thought to harbor ambitions to be the spiritual leader of a political movement.
This would not be possible if he were to take up an official state position such as is that of Jerusalem chief rabbi.
Speaking to the Post, a close associate of Amar’s said the rabbi had no interest in the position whatsoever, regardless of whether he would have the backing of Bayit Yehudi, or other political parties.
A separate source close to Barkat acknowledged that the mayor does hold Amar in high regard and sees him as someone who would be a “fitting candidate,” but that Barkat does not support any specific candidate.
Amar was possibly in line to succeed the late spiritual leader of the Shas movement Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, but fell out with the rabbi and Shas political leader MK Arye Deri over his failed bid to get re-elected as chief rabbi.
Since then, speculation has continued that Amar will launch his own political party, possibly in conjunction with former Shas chairman and Deri rival MK Eli Yishai.
Since the deaths of both incumbents in 2003, the twin posts of Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis of Jerusalem have been vacant due to bitter legal wrangling over how to conduct the electoral process.
Most of the legal concerns have now been resolved, and the final bureaucratic processes are being completed.
Last week, the five-member electoral commission, including Barkat, convened for the first time, while the political parties in the Jerusalem Municipal Council have either submitted the names of their delegates to the 48-member electoral committee or will do so this week.
Additionally, the 12 synagogues which will each send one delegate to the electoral body have also been selected.
The final 12 members of the panel will be selected by Religious Services Minister and Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett.
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