Amsalem defies Ovadia Yosef’s order to quit Knesset

If Amsalem does not return his mandate to Shas, "he is a thief in broad daylight," says four-man Council of Torah Sages headed by rabbi.

November 24, 2010 02:44
3 minute read.
Shas MK Haim Amsalem

Haim Amsalem 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Even after explicitly being ordered to do so by the Shas Council of Torah Sages, maverick MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem on Tuesday remained firm in his refusal to return his mandate to Shas.

On Monday night, the four-man council headed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef convened to consider “the sentiments expressed by Haim Amsalem, who unlawfully spoke out against the dear yeshiva students... to gain the approval of those who hate the Torah,” the council said in a statement that was read out.

“He started with distorting Halacha on matters of conversions conducted by our rabbinical courts... and recently attacked married yeshiva students at length... and caused a huge desecration.

“We demand of Mr. Haim Amsalem by the law of Torah to return his mandate to Shas, in accordance with his commitment [to abide with the council’s rulings] when we decided to add his name to the list of Shas MKs,” the statement read, taking care not to call Amsalem a rabbi, though he is one.

“If he doesn’t do so, he is a thief in broad daylight...And we call on all of those who care about the Torah to keep far away from him and his strange and heretical opinions.”

In an interview with Channel 10, Amsalem reiterated that “the mandate will not return,” as he was voted into the Knesset to represent the Sephardi public, and does so in his moderate approach.

Key to Amsalem’s approach, and perhaps what is most problematic to his party’s line, is his call on those who aren’t destined to be great Torah scholars and who have families to work, and not live on “shameful” allotments.

The recent proposed amendment to the economic arrangements bill that would provide special support to poor kollel students has yet to be approved.

Amsalem also intensified his attacks on Shas chairman Eli Yishai, calling him “an embarrassment” to Israel who causes people to cringe when he opens his mouth to speak, and who acts like the head of a crime family in internal party politics.

He also repeated his assertion that when the 90-yearold Yosef speaks, “the voice is actually that of Yishai” and others close to the rabbi, who feed him bits and parts of information, and manipulate Yosef, who has the ultimate say in Shas.

Allegations such as these, which Amsalem had already aired last Wednesday, brought Yosef to lash out against the MK in his Saturday-night sermon.

Monday’s meeting and its result, therefore, didn’t surprise many.

Meanwhile, Amsalem continued to receive broad public support not only from the secular media and public, but also from political parties that realize his electoral potential, especially keeping in mind that most of Shas’s constituency are not haredim who study in kollels and are supported by state allotments.

Both Young Likud and the Labor’s secretary-general Hilik Bar invited Amsalem, 51, to join their parties, but the Shas lawmaker would not commit himself.

Amsalem has time and again said that his approach is supported even by some other Shas MKs, who dare not speak out publicly, but agree with him that their party doesn’t exemplify the traditional Sephardi approach to Torah, but rather the stringent Lithuanian-Ashkenazi line led by Yishai.

“I want to see a party with a proud constituency of people who earn a living and bring others closer to a Torah with ‘all its paths pleasant and harmonious,’” Amsalem told Channel 10, quoting from Proverbs, “not an angry, threatening Torah, eternally irascible.”

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