Education Minister Shai Piron has defended his opposition to the “Ariel-Amar deal,” Yisrael Hayom reports. Under the deal, Shas would support changing age restrictions on the Chief Rabbi in order to allow Rabbi Yaakov Ariel to run for the post, and Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) would in turn support Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s continuation as the Sephardi Chief Rabbi.
Piron, who is a rabbi himself and is considered a student of Rabbi Ariel, has come under pressure for his party’s expected opposition to the bill.
Piron told Yisrael Hayom that he plans to meet with Rabbi Ariel on Friday. “I will explain to the rabbi that I think he must not be used as a tool to prevent the election of Rabbi Stav,” he said.
“Rabbi Ariel’s status is like that of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. He is a rabbi to rabbis,” Piron continued. “He shouldn’t get involved in this for the sake of his own dignity. He is a spiritual figure who is above these things.”
“He must not run when he is likely to lose. I want to protect him from disgrace,” he added.
Rabbi Ariel ran for the Chief Rabbinate in the last election without anyone intimating that he should not do so and had the support of the religious Zionist rabbis and communities.. The hareidi majority elected Rabbi Metzger, however.
Rabbi Chaim Druckman, venerable religious Zionist leader and the originator of the plan for Rabbi Yaakov Ariel to be Chief Rabbi, requested that Rabbi David Stav remove his name from the candidacy before it goes to the relevant Knesset committee. Rabbi Stav had said that he supports Rabbi Ariel, but refused to remove his name. According to Radio Kol Chai on Friday morning, he said that it is because he is obligated to his donors.
Olam Katan, a Torah and news weekly pamphlet read by religious Zionists all over Israel, claimed last week that Rabbi Stav had spent over 10 million IS on his campaign - an unheard of sum in rabbinic elections - but that no one knows the source of the funds.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will discuss the proposed increase of the age limit for Chief Rabbi elections on Sunday. Three members of the committee belong to Piron’s party, Yesh Atid.
Yesh Atid's 19 votes added to Bayit Yehudi's 12 and the hareidi parties' 18 would be expected to get Likud-Beytenu to join and pass the motion.