Rabbi David Stav370.
(photo credit: Courtesy Tzohar.)
The Bayit Yehudi party has officially endorsed Rabbi David Stav as its candidate
for the position of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi in a vote that took place during a
faction meeting Sunday afternoon.
The endorsement ends months of
political machinations and division over which candidate the national-religious
party would back.
The issue strongly divided the party in what turned
into a bitter contest between different blocs within Bayit Yehudi to promote
their respective candidates.
Speaking at a press conference, party leader
Naftali Bennett said that Stav was the right candidate for the changes that
Bayit Yehudi is trying to effect in the Chief Rabbinate.
our promise to our voters, both secular and religious,” said Bennett. “Bayit
Yehudi will continue to serve as a bridge between the religious and secular in
Israel and today’s decision reflects that in the clearest way
Bennett said that the entire party now stood behind Stav as
its candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
Stav, the chairman of the Tzohar
rabbinical association and a liberalizing figure within the national-religious
world, was heavily opposed by a group of conservative rabbis associated with the
party, and particularly with the Tekuma bloc, a constituent party of the Bayit
Yehudi Knesset faction.
Tekuma and its rabbis sought to have elected
Rabbi Yaakov Ariel but were thwarted by political obstacles, primarily the
necessity of passing legislation to remove the age limit for candidates, which
is currently 70 years old, in light of the fact that Ariel is 76.
the past few months Bayit Yehudi has been furiously searching for a way to
bypass this barrier for Ariel to be considered despite his age, but faced
opposition from within the coalition, principally from Yesh Atid and Hatnua,
which stymied the legislation.
The party also sought to gain increased
security for the election of a national-religious rabbi by floating a deal with
Shas – whereby the haredi party would provide political backing for Ariel on the
chief rabbi electoral committee, in return for Bayit Yehudi passing legislation
allowing current Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to stand for a second term –
something also prohibited by law at present.
Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu
and Hatnua opposed this deal however, primarily because they had all publicly
backed Stav, and so refused to support the required legislation to allow the
candidacy of both Ariel and Amar to move forward.
The Amar-Ariel deal
collapsed last week when it became clear to those promoting it that the
legislative barriers could not be overcome.
But on Sunday, Bayit Yehudi
backed legislation to allow Amar to stand for a second term and the bill was
approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and will now pass to the
Knesset for its first reading.
Speaking at the same press conference,
Bennett said that in return for passing the legislation, Amar has promised to
support their candidate, who is now Rabbi Stav.
Shas spiritual leader
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef remains opposed to Stav’s candidacy however, and The
Jerusalem Post understands that if legislation is passed allowing a chief rabbi
to stand for a second term, then Yosef will endorse current Ashkenazi Chief
Rabbi Yona Metzger and work towards his election.
This would create
serious problems for Stav’s candidacy.
Additionally, it seems unlikely
that Amar would be able to exert much influence at all within the chief rabbi
electoral committee without Yosef’s backing, and so it is unclear what Bayit
Yehudi stands to gain from the deal.
The bill still needs to pass the
legislative process in the Knesset however, so it is possible the party allowed
passage of the bill through the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday
simply to keep the option open.