Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Rabbi Ovadia YosefIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Ya'akov Ariel received important support Monday in their bids to be elected the next respective Sephardic and Ashkenazic Chief Rabbis of Israel, after former Chief Rabbi and Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef reportedly agreed to a plan by Rabbi Haim Druckman on the matter. According to the plan, Rabbi Amar would continue on for a second term as Sephardic Chief Rabbi, while Rabbi Ariel will replace Rabbi Yonah Metzger as Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi.

Rabbi Druckman, a venerable leader of religious Zionism, head of the Ohr Etzion HIgh School and Hesder Yeshiva in Merkaz Shapiro, proposed the plan several weeks ago. Rabbi Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, is considered one of the most important rabbis in the Religious Zionist movement. His candidacy is opposed by most hareidi rabbinical leaders, and as such, Rabbi Yosef, considered hareidi himself, is in disagreement with his colleagues. Many members of secular parties, as well as several Bayit Yehudi MKs, support Rabbi David Stav, the head of the Tzohar organization, for the post of Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi. On Monday, Labor officially endorsed Rabbi Stav for the post.

The appointment of Rabbis Amar and Ariel would require adjustments in current laws on who can serve as Chief Rabbi. Currently, rabbis who served a term as Chief Rabbi - Rabbi Amar is currently Chief Sephardic Rabbi - cannot serve a second term, and individuals over 70 years of age - as Rabbi Ariel is - cannot serve either.

Despite the endorsement, the election of Rabbi Ariel – and Rabbi Amar – is not assured. The Bayit Yehudi party is said to be in favor of legislation to expand the body that will choose the chief rabbis, which would increase the number of public officials who could make the recommendations. The legislation was proposed by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), in an effort to dilute the influence of hareidi rabbis on the choice of chief rabbi. But many hareidi and Religious Zionist rabbis fear that the legislation could open the door to the inclusion of non-Orthodox rabbis on the panel.

Arutz Sheva learned that a group of rabbis met Sunday with Bayit Yehudi Party Chairman Naftali Bennett in an attempt to change the party's support for the legislation. The rabbis reiterated the message in a meeting with Knesset members Yoni Chetboun and Motti Yogev. Similar sentiments were heard during a meeting between Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba'-Hevron and Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, who was accompanied by Member of Knesset Zevulun Calfa.