Rabbi David Stav 370.
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
The Bayit Yehudi party is preparing to run Rabbi David Stav and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu as candidates for the Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbi positions, in light of the failure of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to publicly back a deal with the national- religious party.
Bayit Yehudi has been trying to arrange a political deal with Shas, whereby Bayit Yehudi would support current Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar for a second term and Shas would support Rabbi Yaakov Ariel as Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
The party made it known last Monday that it would wait another seven days for Yosef’s public support, failing which it would nominate two national- religious rabbis instead.
A Bayit Yehudi source told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that it does not now expect Yosef to publicly support the proposal, and that the party would likely propose Stav and Eliyahu as its candidates for both positions.
The party will hold its Knesset faction meeting on Monday, where it is expected that Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett will make the announcement.
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eliahu Ben-Dahan of Bayit Yehudi was scheduled to meet with senior national-religious leader Rabbi Dov Lior in the settlement of Kiryat Arba where Lior serves as municipal chief rabbi; they were expected to discuss, among other issues, the candidates for chief rabbi.
While Stav is a popular and liberalizing figure within the mainstream national-religious community, Eliyahu, the chief municipal rabbi of Safed, is a polarizing choice, since he has made several extremely controversial comments that have been the basis for police investigations for incitement to racial hatred.
Eliyahu is, however, favored by the conservative wing of the national-religious movement and leadership, including Lior.
The significant legislative and political obstacles that have prevented Bayit Yehudi from nominating Ariel, favored by the conservative national-religious rabbinic leadership for Ashkenazi chief rabbi above Stav, created tensions within the party between Bennett loyalists and the more right-wing Tekuma party, which is a con- stituent of the Bayit Yehudi Knesset faction.
Eliyahu is affiliated with Teku- ma and his nomination will therefore help placate the political and rabbinic leadership of the party, which is distinctly under enamored with Stav and his liberal agenda.
But the Safed chief rabbi’s past comments regarding Israel’s Arab population will generate opposition to his nomination.
In 2006, Eliyahu was indicted on grounds of racial incitement for comments he made to the media in 2002 and 2004, but the charges were dropped in return for which the rabbi apologized for his comments, retracted them and pledged not make similar comments in the future.
In 2004, Eliyahu was quoted in local newspaper Kol Haemek V’hagalil as saying that married Arab men in and around Safed “take [the] Jewish women as kind of maidservants.” In the same interview he said that a college for Arabs should be created so that only Jews could attend the Safed Academic College, to prevent intermingling between young Arabs and Jews.
Eliyahu also said in an inter- view on Israeli radio station Reshet Bet that he urged people not to sell or rent apartments to Arabs. He underlined this view in December 2010, when he initiated an open letter, signed by 50 prominent rabbis, arguing that Jewish law prohibits selling or renting property to non-Jews.
Another investigation was opened into Eliyahu’s public comments in 2011 but it was closed without an indictment.
MK Esawi Frej of Meretz called on the attorney-general last month to prevent Eliyahu from running because of such comments.
The purpose of the deal which Bayit Yehudi has been pursuing with Shas over the last month was to ensure the election of a national-religious chief rabbi by securing Shas support for its nominee, since Shas has significant influence on the 150-member electoral committee – owing to the fact that many of the 70 rabbis on the panel are loyal to the hare- di party.
Although Shas chairman Arye Deri has expressed support in a written letter to Bayit Yehudi for the deal, the national-religious party is dubious about the reliability of the party’s promises. Therefore, Bayit Yehudi last week requested a public announcement from Shas spiritual leader Yosef, as a guarantor for the deal within seven days.
Yosef has refused to make such a pronouncement and the slated deal now looks to have finally died.
Bayit Yehudi is also moving ahead with legislation to increase the size of the electoral committee to 200 members, with 40 guaranteed spots for women. Currently, there are no women on the panel.
This move, if successful, would dilute Shas’s influence on the committee and increase the chances of Bayit Yehudi’s candidates being elected.