Justice Minister Livni to Tighten Grip Over Rabbinical Courts

As courts’ director-general retires, justice minister taps aide to run system.

Moti Milrod

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni plans to name her director-general to administer the rabbinical-court system after Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky retired from the position on Thursday without a successor or a process for appointing one.

Rabbi Dichovsky had served for four years and his retirement had been planned. But Livni had been unable to find a successor for a number of reasons, including differences of opinion with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who also serves as the president of the Rabbinical High Court.

The director-general of the rabbinical courts is supposed to be appointed by consensus of the justice minister and the president of the rabbinical court. If the candidate is not a dayan, or high religious judge, the appointment requires a meeting of the Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee, a group that has not made any decisions for some years.

Livni thus plans to name Amy Palmer, her director-general, to the post of director-general of the rabbinical courts, at least on an interim basis. By doing so, Livni will strengthen her control over the rabbinical-court system, particularly in her dealings with Chief Rabbi Yosef.

“In the wake of disagreements with the Chief Rabbinate, no agreements have been reached” on a new director-general, a spokesman for Livni’s bureau said. Until the two sides can agree on a candidate, Palmer will take administrative responsibility for the rabbinical courts, “just as she has administrative authority over the sharia courts,” the spokesman said. Officials of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef’s bureau declined to comment.

The rabbinical-court system has been in a state of deep, ongoing crisis.

The appointment of a director-general for the rabbinical courts was put on the back burner in favor of more urgent issues that Livni, Rabbi Yosef and the rest of the Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee want to resolve. The most urgent of these issues, which is delaying tens of thousands of cases pending in the rabbinical courts, is the appointment of judges to the rabbinical-court system.