Israeli rabbis block Shaked's leadership of right-wing party over secularism
Ambitious Israeli right-wing politician Ayelet Shaked’s career hit another snag on Thursday when influential rabbis declared her unfit to lead the Jewish Home party in September’s election.
Shaked, who was sacked as justice minister last month, has been assessing her options ahead of the repeat poll in two months’ time after failing to be elected to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in April.
The Israeli ultra-nationalist is highly popular among many in the Israeli right, however her New Right party, which broke away from Jewish Home to contest the last election, failed to meet the minimum threshold of votes.
'It's better to lose seats and put a religious person at the head of the party'
- Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
With new polls called, however, she has been exploring the possibility of joining another party, including going back to Jewish Home.
Now that appears almost certainly impossible, with highly influential Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of Israel’s most prominent religious-Zionist figures, saying she should not lead Jewish Home or the Unions of Right-Wing Parties it is a member of, because of her secularism.
"It's better to lose seats and put a religious person at the head of the party," he was quoted by Israeli daily Haaretz as saying.
"This is a great work that needs to be done by people whose entire life is Torah and they can lead the struggles for the benefit of the nation.”
Aviner, former rabbi of the illegal Beit El settlement in the occupied West Bank, pointed to a statement he issued alongside a dozen top right-wing rabbis, which called for her leadership of the Union of Right-Wing Parties to be blocked.
“The head of the national religious party must be a God-fearing Jew who observes the Torah and mitzvah,” the statement read.
"This is not a personal issue, but rather a public value issue of placing the issue of the Jewishness of the State of Israel as the central theme of the national religious party.”
Her gender was also an issue.
“The complex vortex of politics is not for women,” Aviner said.
Shaked raised eyebrows across Israel and the world during the last election campaign with a slick, sultry advertisement that cast her as a fashion model.
In it, the then-justice minister played on her femininity and appearance, before spraying herself with a perfume labelled “fascism” and declaring it smelt like democracy.
The rabbis’ rejection leaves Shaked in a tight spot.
She can either stick with Naftali Bennet’s New Right, which was accused of leading a scattered, fractious campaign, or look elsewhere – even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.
However, Shaked and Netanyahu are on bad terms, which resulted in her shock removal from the justice ministry last month, leaving the path to Likud’s list a difficult one.