Yosef okays Amar-Ariel deal

According to deal, both parties will support candidacies of Rabbis Ariel and Amar for positions of Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbi, respectively.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has given his support to a deal between Bayit Yehudi and Shas in which both parties will support the candidacies of Rabbis Yaakov Ariel and Shlomo Amar for the positions of Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbi, respectively, Shas sources said on Monday.
According to party officials, the Shas mentor appended a statement and his signature to a letter written by Amar to prominent national-religious leader and Bayit Yehudi liaison Rabbi Haim Druckman, saying that he supported the proposal detailed in Amar’s letter.
Shas chairman Arye Deri confirmed Yosef had signed the letter at the party’s Knesset faction meeting on Monday and said it was now down to Bayit Yehudi to pass the requisite legislation.
For the deal to go through, legislation must be passed allowing a serving chief rabbi to be elected for a second term, in order that Amar can be reelected. A separate bill must be passed to remove the age limit of 70 years old for chief rabbi candidates, in order to allow Ariel to run, since he is 76.
The candidacy of Ariel has been strongly advocated by Druckman and members of the Bayit Yehudi party, in part because of pressure from conservative elements in the national-religious community as well as concerns for the viability of a national-religious chief rabbi candidate without Shas’s support.
Shas wields strong influence on the 150-member chief rabbi electoral committee and Bayit Yehudi has been concerned that the members loyal to the Sephardi haredi party would stymie efforts to get a national-religious chief rabbi elected.
Last week, Bayit Yehudi issued an ultimatum to Yosef, saying that either he publicly support the deal or the party would nominate national-religious rabbis for both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbi positions and expand the electoral committee to 200 members, including reservation for 40 women, to dilute Shas’s influence on the panel, thus paving the way for the appointment of two non-haredi candidates.
Yosef’s announcement will cause fresh headaches for Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett. Following Deri’s announcement of Shas’s support for the deal last week, Bayit Yehudi demanded a public statement from Yosef, because it did not trust Deri to follow through on support for Ariel.
But Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu, Hatnua, and today Labor, have all publicly backed Rabbi David Stav, a liberalizing figure in the national-religious world, as their preferred candidate for Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
Furthermore, coalition partners Yesh Atid and Hatnua have expressed opposition to legislation designed for specific individuals.
Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni heads the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, through which all bills must be approved if they are to have coalition backing in the Knesset. She can therefore prevent the legislation required to elect Amar and Ariel from getting government support.
In an interview with haredi website Kikar Hashabbat last week, Deri said that he believed the chances of passing the legislation for Ariel to run were slim.
He added that one of the achievements of the announcement of his deal was that Bayit Yehudi had delayed a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on the bill to expand the electoral committee, proposed by Hatnua MK Elazar Stern.
Deri said that if the bill passed it would be “a fatal blow to the Chief Rabbinate.”
“Because of what was printed in the media... the bill was not brought to a vote and was delayed by two or three weeks,” Deri noted in the interview.
He said however that party would back the deal if the required legislation was passed.