Hours after the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee approved the so-called “Amar Law”, the Shas party unexpectedly decided to drop it on Wednesday afternoon.
The law would allow Chief Rabbis to serve two consecutive terms and would have enabled Rabbi Shlomo Amar to run for a second term as Sephardi Chief Rabbi.
The law was being prepared for its second and third readings in the Knesset, when Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri decided to drop his party’s support for it, citing as the reason an agreement with the Bayit Yehudi party that would give its chairman, Minister Naftali Bennett, greater power in the committee that selects chief rabbis.
According to an agreement signed between the Bayit Yehudi and the Likud, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Bennett would each select five of the ten rabbis who serve on the committee. Bennett would also select the 10 public figures who, along with the rabbis, choose the next Chief Rabbi.
Deri is opposed to giving Bennett so much power in the committee because he fears that doing so increases the chances that the Bayit Yehudi’s candidate for Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, Rabbi David Stav, will be chosen for the position. The hareidi parties are against Rabbi Stav's candidacy because of his positions, but having Rabbi Stav elected, fears Deri, will also bring Shas into a position of weakness.
Deri also opposes the compromise reached between associates of Rabbi Amar and the Bayit Yehudi party and which stipulates that Rabbi Amar’s associates will promote Rabbi Stav’s candidacy.
Since Shas is the party which authored the Amar Law and placed it on the Knesset’s agenda, it also has the authority to take it off the agenda. By doing this it has essentially shelved the law.
Deri’s surprise move was met with anger by senior MKs in the Shas party, who accused Deri of shelving the law because he opposes having Rabbi Amar run for a second term and not because he is against Rabbi Stav.
Arutz Sheva received quotes, attributed to one prominent Shas MK, who said that that Deri's behavior was "vile and blasphemous."
"What happened here is not normal," the MK was quoted as having said immediately after the bill was taken off the Knesset’s agenda.
"It has nothing to with the compromise that was reached this morning to give Bennett greater powers,” said the MK. “Deri did not want Rabbi Amar to be elected. Period. And he did not know how to do it until this morning. The cat out has been let out of the bag and Deri has been exposed.”