Controversial bill seeks to keep chief rabbis in office

Legislation would change law limiting rabbi’s term to 10 years; MK calls bill "personal legislation totally against constitutional norms.”

By JONAH MANDEL
May 26, 2011 04:33
1 minute read.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The Knesset approved Wednesday a preliminary reading of a bill that would change the law limiting a chief rabbi’s term to 10 years. According to a proposal by MK Eli Aflalo (Kadima), backed by other members of his party, chief rabbis – including those currently in office – would be permitted to put forth their candidacy for another term.

Aflalo explained in March that he was merely reversing the abnormal situation created by the law limiting the chief rabbis’ term, which was aimed against former Chief Rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Shlomo Goren.

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Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger are nearing the end of their terms in office, which finish in 2013, and elements within Shas, as well as some senior members of the government, are seeking ways to keep Amar in his position.

Aflalo’s bill received the backing of the government, and passed with 43 MKs in support and six against.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) slammed the bill and called it “personal legislation totally against constitutional norms.”

“Beyond the fundamental breach of legislation in this proposal, Amar’s adjudications and positions do not justify the continuation of his term,” Horowitz said, noting “the impossible difficulties Amar is creating to recognizing Orthodox conversions from abroad and not solving the IDF conversion crisis,” as well as other issues in which Amar proved stringent and unstatesmanlike.

Horowitz also noted that in the Knesset hearing ahead of the vote, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin harshly criticized the bill, and refrained from voting on it.

The Masorti (Conservative) movement’s director-general Yizhar Hess called the bill “unworthy,” and lamented the fact that “instead of canceling the Chief Rabbinate, which is becoming more and more haredi, or at least steadily diminishing its powers so that it might cease from abusing the public, the Knesset – with the support of members of Kadima and Labor – has decided to fortify the status of the chief rabbis.”

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