'Law allowing Amar another term may be illegal'

Knesset legal adviser files opinion saying proposed law to re-elect Sephardi chief Rabbi may not be legal.

June 11, 2013 02:16
2 minute read.
Israel's chief rabbi Shlomo Amar writing in a Torah scroll.

Shlomo Amar writing Torah Scroll 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mihai Barbu )

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon filed a legal opinion on Monday saying that the proposed Knesset law that could enable current Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to be elected to an unprecedented additional term may not be legal.

Yinon noted that Amar helps appoint the panel members that would have the power to give him an additional term as chief rabbi.

The Knesset legal adviser said that such a situation was a clear conflict of interest and was never intended by the Knesset.

Yinon said that when the chief rabbi was given power to help choose the committee that would choose the next chief rabbi, the assumption was that he would be prevented from contending for the position, as the current law provides.

The new legislation at the very least would need to recognize this inconsistency and address it, if it wished to pass muster for legal validity, Yinon said.

At the same time, a Knesset spokesman said that Yinon had not formally declared the legislation illegal.

Meanwhile, the High Court of Justice heard a related petition demanding that elections for the rabbinate be held on schedule on June 23.

The High Court gave the state an additional week to respond, as the state said that the new law – which would resolve many important outstanding issues, such as women’s representation in appointments of the Israeli rabbinate – was close to completion, and to resolve these issues some delay was warranted.

In any case, with the election date still not formally finalized and the rule being that elections cannot occur sooner than three weeks after the date is finalized, all parties agreed that it would already be impossibly to comply with the June 23 deadline, and some delay would be necessary.

At the hearing, the court repeatedly urged the petitioners to allow the Knesset to resolve the issue and questioned what impact the court could ultimately have even if it could issue a conditional order demanding explanations from the state.

The new legislation had been held up until last week by internal coalition feuding between Bayit Yehudi and Hatnua over different legislative initiatives that each had been sponsoring or blocking.

The Amar bill has been promoted by Amar himself, and he has promised to back Bayit Yehudi’s candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi, the recently nominated Rabbi David Stav, in return for the party helping pass legislation to allow him to stand for a second term.

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