Bayit Yehudi endorses Stav as chief rabbi candidate

Party will also support legislation to allow Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to stand for a second term.

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June 2, 2013 17:28
3 minute read.
Rabbi David Stav.

Rabbi David Stav370. (photo credit: Courtesy Tzohar.)

 
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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.

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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.

“We’ve fulfilled 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 possible.”

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.

Over 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.

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