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Naftali Bennett’s Blackest Day

This was an outright failure of Jewish Home and its chairman, Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett.
They took his lunch money. Jewish Home Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett lost the vote on both chief rabbis to the Haredim.

They took his lunch money. Jewish Home Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett lost the vote on both chief rabbis to the Haredim.
Photo Credit: Zuzana Janku/Flash 90

It’s official: to be a chief rabbi in Israel you have to be Haredi. Mind you, the group in Israel that most openly and brazenly ignores the chief rabbinate (other than the Arabs) are the Haredim, who rely exclusively on their own religious court system and their own kosher supervision.

The only interest Haredim have in the chief rabbinate are the jobs.

So it turns out that the National Religious public, who actually abide by the chief rabbinate’s ruling and eat their hechsherim – is not good enough to run the thing. And secular Israelis, who barely tolerate the rabbinate and have zero interaction with Haredim – they, too, must obey Haredi rulers.

This complete defeat of the National Religious took place while Jewish Home was not only a senior member in the coalition government, but they had possession of the Ministry of Religious Services. How do you lose the vote—both votes, really—when it’s your office in charge of it?

This was an outright failure of Jewish Home and its chairman, Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett.

The Sephardi National Religious favorite, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, was not my personal choice. But his loss, 49 votes to Rabbi Yosef’s 68, is a major disappointment to many on the right. I could live with it, there was a huge leftist campaign against Rabbi Eliyahu, I could understand his loss.

But for Rabbi David Stav, head of Tzohar, an organization whose mission is to make religious services more available and palatable to the public at large in Israel, for him to have lost by 55 to 68 votes, means there were 68 voters in the body that includes 150 mayors, city rabbis, rabbinic judges and a handful of women, that the Haredi establishment was able to secure.

Now, I have no doubt in the wisdom and scholarship of both winners. I also think they would work hard to open up the rabbinate to the needs of secular Israelis, who have been greatly alienated by the public image of corruption and bureaucracy associated with the rabbinate. I’m a huge fan of Rabbi Lau’s father, former Chief Rabbi Israel Lau, and I admire the scholarship (but not the shenanigans) of Rabbi Yosef’s father, Rav Ovadia Yosef.

So, I for one, could live nicely with these two choices, although many of my National Religious friends are grimacing tonight.

But as a test of the political skills of Naftali Bennett and his Knesset team – it’s a big, fat F. And at a time when we’re going to need them the most, as the dark clouds of a Palestinian state are starting to gather above our heads – this was not fun to watch. At this point my personal confidence in Minister Naftali Bennett’s ability to throw his political weight around, twist arms, issue quiet threats, intimidate and punish the enemy, all the stuff a political representative I send to the Knesset must do – not great.

Bennett was supposed to win this one. He had the power base. How did MK Aryeh Deri and his band of merry Haredim take his lunch money so skillfully?

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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11 Responses to “Naftali Bennett’s Blackest Day”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yori, you are not being fair. You really don't know how involved Netanyahu was behind the scenes. After all, it made political sense for Netanyahu to do so. And, you can't compare Jewish Homes power with the power of Likud joining Shas and UTJ. After all, the process here was not an open democratic one.

  2. Ch Hoffman says:

    Knowledge of Torah is a given in these competitions.
    It's knowledge that the role of chief rabbi of Israel is to be the chief rabbi of all the Jews of Israel that is the job.

    B Lau may well be an articulate writer; but unless he can show that he's above the recent lunacy of "Frumkeit L'shma", he'll be as big a failure as his predecessor, and he'll have even fewer excuses.

    As to the Sephardi CR, he should take a lesson from Mitt Romney's defeat in '12: If you say something to one group, it's said to every group.

  3. Anonymous says:

    How come there is so much hatred from some of the national religious for the Chareidim? I thought they were above this. Its sad! I thought they positioned themselves as the voice of reason and calmness looking for the good in the other.Where is all this going. We need to all calm down the rhetoric and loook for the good points in the other. That's what Rabbi Nachman says.

  4. Yori Yanover says:

    republicc1948 – You're right. So I'm better off voting for Liberman. He knows how to get his way with Bibi. Somehow when it comes to the NPR crowd it's always about You must understand, and Be fair. It's like they're second class everything 0– which is why their letter is Bet.

  5. Dan Silagi says:

    The government of Israel shouldn't be in the chief rabbi business. For that matter, the government of Israel should be in the rabbi business at all. When Israel returns to being the secular democracy it once was, I'll start supporting it again. The only reason I support Israel at all these days is because the Arabs are far worse.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yori, I couldn't tell if you were being sarcastic about voting for Lieberman. Of course Lieberman is no threat to Bibi. Bayit yehudi is a major threat since its legitimization could pull away from Likud the great proportion of voters who don't believe in land for a false peace. That is why Bibi went after Jewish Home with such a ferocity and with all of Likud's resources. It was effective in reducing Jewish homes numbers. And yes, if Bennett hadn't made a deal with Lapid, it was definitely Bibi's intention to keep the Haredi parties in the government and exclude Jewish Home from the coalition. In the current situation it is obvious that Bibi, working with the Haredi, continued his plan of deligitimization. In this war between Bennett and Bibi it is amazing how many battles Bennett has won, considering the hand he was given.

  7. So, Mr. Yanover, you're a 'huge fan' of Rabbi Lau Sr. My own unpleasant (too) personal experience with the man in days gone by would not justify such admiration. Here's hoping his son has higher moral values…

  8. So, Mr. Yanover, you're a 'huge fan' of Rabbi Lau Sr. My own unpleasant (too) personal experience with the man in days gone by would not justify such admiration. Here's hoping his son has higher moral values…

  9. I hope you looked in the mirror and saw who you are.
    Thank Hashem that there is a chief Rabbi. He keeps all the other Rabbanim in their place. hopefully!
    But the Israeli chief Rabbi is no Ayatola.
    He is not an evil man like the Ayatola

  10. "twist arms, issue quiet threats, intimidate and punish the enemy".

    This is everything that's wrong with politics. If you can't get your way by honest means, deal with it! Accept defeat gracefully, and figure out where you went wrong so you can do better next time. This is LIFE, not a schoolyard game.

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