Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Rabbi Shmuel EliyahuEmanuel Maimon

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is expected to summon Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Tzfat (Safed), for a hearing over his plans to run for the position of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Weinstein believes that Rabbi Eliyahu may be ineligible to run for the position because of past statements regarding renting homes to Arabs.

Rabbi Eliyahu’s controversial statements were made following complaints that Arabs were moving into Jewish neighborhoods and disturbing Jews in Tzfat.

Weinstein explained that he decided to summon Rabbi Eliyahu following recent complaints he received about his past statements, adding that he would formulate his final position on the candidacy after meeting the rabbi.

Several days ago, MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) sent a letter to Weinstein asking him to bar Rabbi Eliyahu from the race.

“Of the candidates, the most disturbing is Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who in recent years preached racism, and put it into practice with a halakhic [Jewish legal – ed.] ruling prohibiting selling or renting apartments to Arab citizens,” Cabel wrote.

“Rabbi Eliyahu consistently exploits his public position to incite against a minority in the State of Israel that makes up one-fifth of the population,” he continued. “This, while using every possible platform to spread statements dripping with racism, like, ‘A Jew should not flee from Arabs, a Jew should make Arabs flee from him.’”

MK Esawi Frij of Meretz has also spoken out against the possibility that Rabbi Eliyahu could join the Rabbinate race. “This is a primitive racist, who incites and who hates Arabs,” Frij charged.

Following the announcement about the intent to question Rabbi Eliyahu, the Movement for Governability and Democracy, headed by Yehuda Amrani, sent a harshly worded letter to Weinstein on Tuesday night.

"The Chief Rabbinate of Israel Law, which is the law under which the chief rabbi is elected, does not give the Attorney General any authority to filter candidates, and certainly not on the basis of such or other statements,” said the movement.

“The Attorney General would be better off occupying himself with his numerous and important tasks, and not enter areas that do not belong to him,” said the Movement for Governability and Democracy. “Exceeding his limits and providing decisions on issues related to morals and values raises concern that the Attorney General bases his actions on political and populist reasons, and undermines public confidence in the institution of the Attorney General and in the legal system as a whole.”