Liberman calls for Sephardi chief rabbi to be fired over Override Clause comments

In response to the the Sephardi chief rabbi's comments, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman demand that he be fired.

 Outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef   (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90, YONATAN SINDEL/POOL)
Outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90, YONATAN SINDEL/POOL)

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yizhak Yosef, affiliated with the Shas Party, said during a weekly Torah lesson on Saturday night that "there needs to be an Override Clause, like what is being done now, a law [which says that] there is no such thing as the High Court deciding."

Yosef made the comment after claiming that Israel's court system was withholding appointments of neighborhood rabbis due to the Reform and Conservative movement's demand for equal representation.

The Override Clause would enable the Knesset to override decisions made by the High Court. The Religious Zionist Party (RZP) and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) demanded to include the clause in coalition agreements between their parties and the Likud.

"There was never a government with 32 orthodox and haredi members of Knesset as this [incoming] government, never," Yosef also said. "Who knows, maybe there is an opportunity to fix the 'Who is a Jew' law," he added, concluding that "things need to be fixed and now this is an opportunity to do so."

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman called on Prime Minister Yair Lapid to fire the chief rabbi in response to his comments.

 Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, August 17, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, August 17, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

"The Chief Rabbi is acting as Chief Politician," Liberman wrote on Twitter. "The repeated calls on his part regarding political decisions is infuriating. He is acting contrary to his role, which is supposed to be free of political and foreign extortion.

"This is not the chief rabbi's first attempt to intervene, as just a few days ago he intervened in the coalition negotiations and demanded to multiply by three or four the stipends of full-time yeshiva students, and therefore I call on the prime minister to immediately suspend him and after a hearing also fire him – even before the new government is formed," Liberman wrote."

UTJ leader Yizhak Goldknopf attacked Liberman for his comment.

"The man who blasphemed and incited against an entire public, will not limit the freedom of expression of others and certainly not of a rabbi in Israel," Goldknopf said.

"I remind Mr. Liberman that the election is already over. In the few days you have left in the Finance Ministry, try to minimize the damage you caused in your short tenure, instead of provoking unnecessary provocations," he said.

Also on Saturday night, UTJ second in command MK Moshe Gafni said during a political event that UTJ will not enter the coalition if the Override Clause is not passed into law.

Gafni also said that "there will be a section in the coalition agreement, that everything done by the previous government will be erased." According to the MK, this item had already been agreed upon by other coalition members.