MKs push to get rid of Rabbi Metzger

A-G said not enough evidence to indict chief rabbi, but he should step down.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
June 13, 2006 00:59
2 minute read.

The battle over the future of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger has moved to the Knesset with MKs from various parties trying to bring legislation that would end his term of office. Attorney General Menahem Mazuz announced two months ago that while there was not enough evidence to indict Metzger over accepting bribes, there was still sufficient grounds for forcing him to step down from his position, especially as he had apparently changed his version three times under police questioning. Mazuz said that if Metzger wouldn't resign, he would take steps to ensure his removal, including a request from the justice minister to convene the Rabbinical Court Judges Selection Committee to decide on firing him. Metzger refused to resign and received the backing of the Chief Rabbinate Council and senior rabbis who objected to the attorney general's attempt to remove a serving rabbi from his post. He also petitioned the Supreme Court to cancel Mazuz's opinion. Meanwhile, Knesset members from the coalition and opposition have begun examining possible legislation to change the Chief Rabbinate law, according to which two chief rabbis, an Ashkenazi and a Sephardi, are appointed to serve for a ten-year term. The initiative was originally pushed by MK Yitzhak Levi and other colleagues of his in the National Union Party who blame Metzger for bringing the institute of the chief rabbi into disrepute. MKs of other parties have expressed their support for a law that would end Metzger's tenure and also end the out-dated practice of having two chief rabbis. MK Zeev Elkin of Kadima said on Monday that he had "nothing against Metzger, but I think that we have to change the situation, we don't need both an Ashkenazi and a Sephardi chief rabbi, one is enough." Metzger has been quick to retaliate and has already made phone calls to MKs asking them to reconsider their position. The three NRP members have already sent him a letter expressing their support and disavowing any connection to the initiative of their colleagues in the joint list with National Union. Metzger's aides are blaming the attorney general for exhorting the MKs to legislate against him. Sources in the Justice Ministry denied that Mazuz had initiated any parliamentary action and said he had been approached on the subject. They stressed that all the candidates for the Chief Rabbinate had been told three years ago that there was a possibility that legislation limiting their terms might be introduced and that they were not guaranteed ten years on the job. One obstacle standing in the face of any legislation could be the coalition agreement between Kadima and Shas that includes the promise that no changes would be made to the status quo on religious matters. MKs involved in the attempt said they believed Shas could be convinced not to oppose the legislation if it were ensured that Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, a disciple of the party's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, would be allowed to remain in his post.


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