Relations between coalition parties Hatnua and the Bayit Yehudi continued to
deteriorate Tuesday, with Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett
effectively blocking a bill by MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) to make changes to the
composition of the panel that chooses the chief rabbis.
The Bayit Yehudi
leader’s move is the latest in an ongoing battle with Hatnua consisting of
vetoes and badmouthing, which, late Monday night, brought MK Shuli Muallem
(Bayit Yehudi) to tears.
Bennett committed to only choose women as his 10
appointees to the 150-member chief rabbi electoral committee.
currently only has one female member.
In addition, Bayit Yehudi did not
remove its veto of the “Stern Bill,” which enlarges the election committee for
the chief rabbis from 150 to 200 members and reserves 20 percent of all seats on
the panel for women. “Our solution will integrate women into the electoral body
instead of giving political functionaries jobs,” Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman
Ayelet Shaked said.
Shaked added that the party is continuing to
strengthen women, pointing out that MK Shuli Muallem (Bayit Yehudi) was voted
onto the committee that selects religious judges.
The party called for
Justice Minister and Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni to congratulate the Bayit Yehudi
for fighting for women’s rights and remove her party’s veto of the reform in
“The revolution [in religious services] that we
initiated will bring efficiency, allow couples to register for marriage in any
town and minimize politics in appointments to religious councils,” the party
added. “Livni’s opposition is delaying the reform and harms the citizens of
Hatnua called Bennett’s pledge to appoint only women “a first
victory in our battle for equality for women in general, and more specifically,
their right to choose the chief rabbis.”
At the same time, the party said
the move is only a partial solution, and called for the Bayit Yehudi to remove
its veto of the Stern Bill.
Late Monday night, ahead of the vote on a
bill proposed by Muallem requiring that women be on the committee that selects
religious judges, Stern accused the Bayit Yehudi MK – along with eight other
members of her faction –of hypocrisy for avoiding the plenum rather than voting
for his bill on the chief rabbinate.
As Stern spoke, several MKs shouted,
“Let’s burst this bubble: I had an appointment with the
doctor who treated my cancer,” Muallem – who was diagnosed with breast cancer in
2010 – yelled from her seat.
“You have no respect! No respect at all!”
“I’m sorry that my cancer is more important than
anything else. You should be embarrassed! This is a disgrace!” Muallem
Soon after, Stern took the stage and asked Muallem for forgiveness,
saying he did not know she had been at the doctor at the time.
Shaked scolded Stern from the plenum’s stage, saying Hatnua used political
tricks to get his bill through the Ministerial Committee for Legislation even
though Bayit Yehudi did not yet decide its stance.
“You’re a populist,
and the head of your party is a selfrighteous populist,” Shaked said. “Your bill
isn’t the most important thing in the world; Shuli’s health is more
The bickering in the plenum came hours after Hatnua vetoed
the “Amar Bill,” which would allow chief rabbis to run for a second term, on the
grounds it is “personal legislation” specifically meant to benefit Sephardi
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Hatnua vetoed the Amar Bill because the Stern
Bill is still blocked. Livni’s party claims that the Bayit Yehudi is preventing
the legislation from being brought to a vote because of the opposition of a bloc
of conservative rabbis who are strongly against the proposal.
such rabbis, including the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hebron Dov Lior, sent a
letter to all the Bayit Yehudi MKs before the bill’s preliminary reading saying
they should not support the bill.
A source in Hatnua said that as soon as
Bayit Yehudi removes its veto on the Stern bill, it would remove its veto on the
Amar bill. The Amar bill was originally designed to advance the Amar-Ariel deal
that would have provided for mutual support between Shas and Bayit Yehudi for
their respective candidates in the elections for chief rabbis, Sephardi Chief
Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Yaakov Ariel.
The deal collapsed and Ariel is
no longer a contender, but Amar has nevertheless promised to support Bayit
Yehudi’s candidate, now confirmed as Rabbi David Stav, in return for the
national-religious party’s help in passing the requisite legislation to allow a
serving chief rabbi to stand for a second term.
Amar’s support for Bayit
Yehudi’s candidate was promised without the backing of Shas spiritual leader and
Amar’s patron Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. It is unclear how much tangible support on the
chief rabbi’s electoral committee Amar can muster for Stav, independent of
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