The public council to elect a new chairman for Habayit Hayehudi, after the departure of the former chairman, Naftali Bennett, after evaluating some seventy men and women for the job, on Sunday recommended the former IDF chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Rabbi Rafi Peretz to head the national-religious party.
The party will vote to ratify the recommendation on Monday.
Rafi Peretz served as the IDF Chief Military Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces from 2010 to 2016. His military career included serving as helicopter pilot in the Israeli Air Force. He founded and served as head of the Otzem Pre-Military Academy in Gush Katif, which was relocated after the expulsion.
In 2016, then Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot decided to take away from the military rabbinate the responsibility for Jewish awareness education, transferring it to the IDF HR, over Rabbi Peretz’s strong objections. Shortly thereafter, Peretz stepped down as military chief rabbi and returned to head the Otzem program.
After the council’s decision, Rabbi Peretz said:
“I was humbled to hear about the role being placed on my shoulders, by the council that labored to issue a valid decision. Today I saw the council’s seriousness toward each candidate. I am proud that we have in religious Zionism a public council so diverse and so good, comprised of men and women and rabbis and rank and file members, with everyone making their contribution.
“I hope and believe that God will give me the blessing to stand and bear this special public burden and to love each and every one of the people of Israel. This is our goal, this is the banner of religious Zionism.”
During his military service, Rabbi Peretz criticized the expulsion of thousands of Jewish homesteaders from the Gaza Strip. At the same time, he spoke against civilians resisting IDF soldiers who came to remove them. H declared: “Not one spec of dust will ever separate between us and the IDF.”
He was also adamant in speaking against any refusal of religious soldiers to carry out an order. In the case of religious soldiers who walked out on a musical show that included female singers, Rabbi Peretz said the most they were permitted was to lower their heads and not pay attention to the show – a view that was later turned into an official rule of conduct by the IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.