Rabbi Yaakov Ariel caused a stir this week with the publication of an article insisting that Israel’s government must never rely on the support of non-Jewish lawmakers, and that non-Jews should not hold senior government positions.
Rabbi Ariel is chief rabbi of the city of Ramat Gan and one of the leading rabbis of the religious Zionist movement.
His controversial article appeared in the latest issue of the annual publication Tehumin (תחומין – a Hebrew acronym for “Torah, Society and State”). The publication is described as a collection of “religious rulings dealing with modern Jewish life, technology and law.” It is published by the Zomet Institute, a high-tech non-profit specializing in the production of electronic appliances that adhere to Jewish law, but that also regularly comments on issues of religion and state.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence speaks clearly of the “establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel,” and no government should alter that definition or character, argued Rabbi Ariel.
Of course, there is debate over how that Jewish character is expressed in an official capacity. Rabbi Ariel leans more toward the Orthodox interpretation, insisting that all commerce must halt on Shabbat, only kosher food should be served in public institutions, and the right of immigration (Aliyah) belongs to Jews alone.
But as for the leadership of the nation, Rabbi Ariel stressed that there is no debate, or at least there shouldn’t be.
“The political elite representing the state–such as the prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister, IDF chief of staff, the state president and the Knesset speaker–should consist only of [Jewish] Israelis,” he wrote, adding that “no coalition should be formed that depends on the votes of [non-Jewish] minority parties.”
And before anyone gets too worked up, Rabbi Ariel wasn’t advocating a suppression of Israel’s minorities. They absolutely must be represented in government, he wrote, just not in its senior leadership.
Minorities “should participate in decision-making, at least in so far as it concerns their own communities. To this end, they should be represented, and it is permissible and even appropriate to appoint persons from these communities to senior positions in the government where they will have an impact on the budget for their sectors,” he explained.
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