The Chief Rabbinate elections in the nation were postponed by a resolution of the Knesset on Monday night, giving the current rabbis until the spring of 2019.
The initial date for the elections was August. The postponement comes amid a competitive competition for the 10-year seats and allegations of backroom scheming by Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri to secure his brother’s appointment as the Sephardic Chief Rabbi.
By a vote of 52-29, the measure calling for the delay was approved.
Michael Malkieli, the minister of religious services in Israel, pushed for the postponement due to worries that separate municipal elections in October might interfere with the rabbinical elections, which determine the selection of the country’s Ashkenazi and Sephardic chief rabbis by a council of 150 individuals, the majority of whom are rabbis connected to local offices of the rabbinate and their staff.
However, officials claim that the underlying cause of the holdup is a power battle between two major contenders for Sephardic Chief Rabbi.
Rabbi David Yosef, the brother of the current Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and the son of the late Shas founder Ovadia Yosef, is running against Yehuda Deri of Beersheva, who is the brother of the Shas chairman Aryeh Deri.
Deri, according to claims in Israeli media, wants to see his brother in the position and is reportedly anticipating that postponing the elections would allow for a compromise arrangement in which Yosef will be named as Jerusalem’s head rabbi.
Chief rabbis ought to be chosen based on their qualifications, not their connections, according to Yitzhak Wasserlauf, Israel’s minister for the growth of the country’s outlying regions, including the Negev and the Galilee.