Chief Rabbi Metzger Can Be Ousted, Says Justice Ministry

AG won't pursue criminal charges for alleged receipt of perks, lies to police, but called on rabbi to resign.

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger will not be able to continue as chief rabbi if the committee for the appointment of rabbinic court judges disqualifies him from serving as a judge in the High Rabbinic Court, Justice Ministry officials said Tuesday.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided Tuesday not to pursue criminal charges against Metzger for alleged receipt of perks and allegedly untruthful statements to the police, but called on the chief rabbi to resign. Mazuz said if Metzger did not resign, he would recommend to the next justice minister that he be asked to resign.

By law, the justice minister can initiate an administrative dismissal procedure against a rabbinic through the committee for the appointment of rabbinic court judges, which has 10 members, among them politicians and the two chief rabbis themselves.

The Ashkenazi chief rabbi - the office Metzger holds - and the Sephardic chief rabbi rotate the position of head of the High Rabbinic Court, legally speaking equal to the presidency of the High Court of Justice.

Mazuz was criticized Tuesday by those who said the process of administrative dismissal from a rabbinic court judgeship does not automatically mean dismissal from the office of chief rabbi, an argument Mazuz rejected. It was also said the law does not specifically grant the attorney general the authority to recommend such a dismissal to the justice minister.

Mazuz's office said an essential part of the attorney general's job was to recommend to the justice minister the dismissal of a civil servant who is unworthy of office.

Metzger stepped down from his High Rabbinic Court position when his police investigation began, following a petition to the High Court of Justice by Ometz, a good-governance watchdog organization. Ometz asked Justice Minister Tzipi Livni Tuesday not to convene the committee for the appointment of rabbinic court judges until it was clear whether Metzger would remain off the bench on his own initiative until the dismissal process was completed.