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Dec 25, 2019

interesting fight for religious control

There is an interesting battle going on, and it is centered on the Ministry for Religious Affairs.

Despite the fact that the government has only been a caretaker government for nearly a year, with no coalition and already two rounds of elections behind us with a third on the way, political parties are making their demands for what ministries they expect to receive authority over in a future government, as a condition for entering a coalition, and others are fighting about what ministries to be given now, even in just a temporary capacity..

The most interesting of these is the "New Right", Yamina, led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Both have made statements that they will demand as a condition for entry into a future coalition both the Ministry of Religious Affairs (Bennett said he would appoint a professional appointment to this position rather than a political appointment), and the election of a Zionist rabbi to the Chief Rabbinate.

Shas, currently in control of this ministry and having been in control of this ministry for many years in recent history, has responded with attacks on Bennett. They scoff at the size of his party wondering why he thinks such a small party should get it. They scoff at Bennett, the current Defense Minister, asking if he is willing to trade the Defense Ministry for the Religious Affairs Ministry. They attack him for being responsible for the elections by not uniting with other parties and not passing the threshold thus wasting many right wing votes. They attack Bennett for not treating the ministry properly when he did control it. Basically, Shas is fighting back saying they want to keep this ministry and Bennett can't/shan't take it away from them.

On the one hand, the fight is silly, especially in context of the current difficulty in forming a government. Maybe they need to focus on campaigning, bringing in votes, uniting with other parties to ensure they pass the threshold, and whatever else is part of an election campaign. Talking about future coalitions and jobs is a bit premature at this point.

On the other hand, it excites the electorate. people love some good political sparring. people love some good fighting, some good arguing. This wakes everyone else up. Maybe he deserves it, maybe not. Maybe Shas deserves it, maybe not. That does not matter. This type of a fight can be good to wake people up and excite them and get things moving. I would not be surprised if it was even coordinated between the two parties, as it is really good for both of them.

I am not even sure why the Yamina party would even want the position, besides for just to create the excitement of a fight. They talk about being religious "lite" and more right of a party than religious, so if they are going to remain small and only deserve one or two ministries, it seems that Religious Affairs would not be their focus.

This is similar to the Likud primary. Saar is great for putting his neck on the line against Bibi, but nobody expects him to even get close to winning. The primary seems like a big waste of time and resources, but it is great for the Likud electorate. This is a good energizer for them and will give them momentum into the campaign for the general elections.

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  1. How could Bennet demand the Election of a Zionist Chief rabbi. First of all the current Ashkenazi chief Rabbi is definitely a Zionist, he celebrates Yom Haatzmaut (including a clear ruling that Halel should be said with a Bracha), was involved in Ezra as a teenager, served in the Army, and works closely with Zionist Organizations.

    But more importantly, the position of Chief Rabbi is an elected position - you can't demand that the government tells people how to vote in an election.

    The people who can vote for chief Rabbi can be roughly divided into three approximately equal groups, Rabbis from the RZ Sector, Rabbis from the Haredi Sector, and public officials such as city mayors and judges.

    In the last election, the "Haredi" candidates (Rabbis Lau and Yosef) easily won both the Haredi Vote and the "Public Official" vote. Rabbi Lau had the support of many mayors, especially mayor of Modiin, and the RZ Sfardi Candidate, Rav Shmuel Eliahu had many statements views that made him unacceptable to many secular mayors. The Ashkenazi RZ candidate (Rav Stav) even lost much of the RZ vote from the more right wing (Hardal) RZ Rabbis.

    It should be relatively easy for the RZ community to find candidates who appeals both the Religious Zionist Rabbis and to non-religious public officials. The fact that they failed to do so in the last 2 elections is a poor reflection on the RZ community, but nothing to do with the government coalition.

  2. I disagree with the main point you are making. In every election, no matter for what position including the chief rabbinate, people tell others who to vote for and how to vote. They do it via coalition agreements. If Bennett is saying he would insist on a zionist chief rabbi to be elected, presumably he would insist it be part of a coalition agreement that would then require coalition partners, or at least a certain number of them, to vote a certain way.

    That being said, I do agree with you about the ineffectiveness, for a long time already, of the religious zionist politicians in issues of religion and state, which used to be their wheelhouse. I also agree regarding the difficulty in defining what might be considered a Zionist rabbi


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