Shas slams its own MK for rejecting women as presidents

MK Amsalem sharply rebuked by fellow party members for stating that voting for female president was prohibited by Jewish law.

MK Haim Amsalem (Shas) was sharply rebuked Wednesday by senior fellow party members for stating that voting for a female president was prohibited by Jewish law. Amsalem, who made the comment in an interview with the haredi weekly Kav Ha'itonut, cited Maimonides, the Middle Ages Halachic sage, as proof that Shas could not vote for Knesset speaker and acting president Dalia Itzik (Kadima) or Colette Avital (Labor). "It is forbidden to appoint a woman to royalty," wrote Maimonides in the first chapter of The Laws of Kings and their Wars. "For the Torah says, 'you shall surely appoint a king,' not a queen. And the same holds true for all of the Jewish peoples' tasks that men, not women, will perform them." Amsalem took this to mean that the Jewish law prohibited voting for a woman president. But the Shas MK admitted that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had the final word in the matter. Sources in Shas said that Ansalem would "get chewed out" for his comments by high-ranking party members. "Who appointed Amsalem to make halachic decisions?" said the source. "He is going to get hit over the head. Besides, Shas supported the appointment of Dalia Itzik as speaker of the Knesset and acting president." Itzik reportedly met with Yosef last week over the possibility of receiving Shas's support. This is not the first time that Amsalem's loose lips have gotten him in trouble in a party that strongly discourages individual expression. After the release of the Winograd Report, Amsalem said that "if the decision was his, Shas would leave the government." Amsalem was disciplined at the time by Shas Chairman Eli Yishai but apparently did not learn his lesson. In parallel, MK Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism) said he did not think there was any prohibition in Jewish law against appointing a female president. "Women's names will be brought before our rabbis like all the other candidates," he said.