Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel SmotrichHillel Maeir/TPS

The statement by MK Bezalel Smotrich (United Right), who called for a return to the laws of the Torah if and when he will serve as Justice Minister, has significantly reduced the chances that he will be appointed Justice Minister, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reports.

According to the report, associates of Netanyahu said, “Smotrich can now forget about the justice portfolio. After these comments, Netanyahu will not allow him to serve as Justice Minister.”

Smotrich, speaking Sunday at the Jerusalem Day celebration at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, said, "We want the justice portfolio, because we want to return the Torah to its foundation." On Monday, he told Reshet Bet radio in an interview, “My long-term desires are for the State of Israel to operate according to the Torah. This is how it should be. This is a Jewish state. The state of the Jewish people will return to being conducted as it was during the days of King David and King Solomon - according to Torah law.”

"Of course it will be adjusted for 2019. People who desecrate Shabbat will not be stoned, it will be adapted to our lives today," stressed the National Union chairman.

Smotrich’s statements provoked anger, mainly among the left, but not only within that camp. Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said, "This is the embodiment of a halakhic state. We will prevent it, we will not lend a hand to this. Jewish law is an important and critical part of Israeli law, but Israeli law cannot be the Torah law."

MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) responded to Smotrich’s remarks and said, “His shocking remarks are a warning sign against the wave of conservatism that is sweeping us from parts of the right. According to the vision of the candidate for the post of Minister of Justice or Education, we will have a country where a man can expel his wife if she is not modest enough, slavery and stoning will return, and only men will be permitted to own property.”

Following the criticism, Netanyahu distanced himself from Smotrich’s remarks and tweeted, “The State of Israel will not be a state based on Jewish law.”

According to the Yediot Aharonot report, Likud Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a closed conversation that "Smotrich's statements harm the Likud and help Liberman." Netanyahu, who heard Steinitz's remarks, reportedly nodded in agreement.

Smotrich himself tried to calm things down on Monday and explained, "Nothing happens in one minute and nothing is done by force. I think that it is possible and necessary to give space and respect to the rabbinical courts and to try to allow the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts by agreement. Jewish law has a place of honor and should have an even more respectable place in our legal system. The people who have been working for years to establish an Islamic state that will act according to sharia law ten minutes from Tel Aviv are alarmed by the desire for Jewish law in the Jewish state. Makes sense."