Confusion around chief rabbinate race

Rumors circulate regarding a possible deal between Shas and Bayit Yehudi to cooperate on election of two new chief rabbis.

May 6, 2013 02:17
2 minute read.
Rabbi Haim Druckman

Rabbi Haim Druckman 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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Confusion reigned Sunday regarding a possible deal between Shas and Bayit Yehudi to cooperate on the election of two new chief rabbis.

A report on Ynet claimed that Bayit Yehudi and Shas had agreed to mutually support Rabbis Yaakov Ariel and Shlomo Amar for selection as Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis in the forthcoming elections.

A well-placed source in Bayit Yehudi did confirm to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday evening that Shas officials had spoken with Rabbi Haim Druckman, who has been discussing the issue with the national-religious party, and agreed to work towards the deal he has been promoting.

However, a Bayit Yehudi party spokeswoman said that no deal had been agreed and that “the party is still examining all the options.”

Druckman has sought Shas support for the candidacy of national-religious Rabbi Yaakov Ariel for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi, in return for Bayit Yehudi’s support to extend the term of current Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, something currently prohibited by law.

Meanwhile, senior Shas MK Ariel Atias said on Sunday evening in an interview with haredi radio station Kol Barama that “as of now” there was no agreement with the coalition on the required legislation.

On Sunday afternoon, the group of senior national-religious rabbis known as “the Seven Elders” convened in Jerusalem to discuss the deal, with Housing Minister and Bayit Yehudi MK Uri Ariel in attendance.

The election of both Ariel and Amar would require two separate pieces of legislation that have been publicly opposed on more than one occasion by coalition partners Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu.

Ariel, 76, requires legislation to remove the current age barrier for candidates of 70, while Amar requires legislation permitting a chief rabbi to serve more than one term.

Although one of the terms of the coalition agreement between Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi is in favor of coalition support for the legislation removing the term limit for chief rabbis, Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and Hatnua have all expressed support for national-religious Rabbi David Stav for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi and are therefore likely to oppose legislation removing the age limit for candidates.

Shas’ agreement to the deal would be somewhat surprising.

Its spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is thought to be opposed to a deal with Bayit Yehudi because of the perceived betrayal of the haredim by the national religious party in forming a pact with Yesh Atid during the coalition negotiations which excluded Shas from government.

The return of Arye Deri to the head of the Shas political party is thought to have led to Sunday’s developments.

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