Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Israel news photo: Flash 90

Those who wanted to see a religious-Zionist rabbi chosen as one of the new Chief Rabbis of Israel were disappointed in their hopes due to the religious-Zionist community’s lack of a powerful leader, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs and Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) said Thursday.

The results of Wednesday’s elections prove the power held by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, he told IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal).

“On the one hand I see this as a positive thing, it’s good to see the public listening to a Torah sage,” he said.

“But on the other hand, the public passed up on the religious-Zionist rabbis who are connected to the state,” he continued.

“If we had managed to run a single candidate, our situation would have been better,” he said of the religious-Zionist community.

He noted that multiple rabbis left the race at the request of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who supported the candidacy of his son, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, who ultimately won. The religious-Zionist world no longer has leaders who command that kind of following, he said.

“If Rabbi Shapira or Rabbi [Mordechai] Eliyahu had told a certain rabbi ‘Withdraw your candidacy, you are doing harm,’ he would have done it. But we do not have that today,” he explained.

He defended religious-Zionist MKs' decision not to support the Stern Bill, which would have altered the makeup of the body selected with choosing Chief Rabbis. “Stern’s proposal changed the rules of the game completely. It would have created a situation in which the rabbis elected according to his proposal would not have been seen as legitimate,” he argued.

Ben-Dahan concluded by expressing hope that he and the new Chief Rabbis would be able to work together with the goal of “a revolution regarding religious services in Israel.”