Outgoing Sephardi chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron sent a scathing letter to the Chief Rabbinic Council on Friday complaining about the appointment of Rabbi Yona Metzger as Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
In the letter, Rabbi Bakshi-Doron describes an agreement reached with Rabbi Metzger in 1998 following a number of allegations against Metzger, including sexual harassment, forged signatures on wedding contracts, fraud and threatening other rabbis.
Under the 1998 accord Metzger was allowed to keep his rabbinic credentials in return for a promise not to contest the post of chief rabbi of Tel Aviv.
"It never occurred to me this rabbi [Metzger] would have the chutzpah to stand for chief rabbi of Israel after promising not to contest Tel Aviv's rabbinate," Bakshi-Doron wrote. He also plans to appeal to Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein on the matter.
Asher Maoz, a law professor at Tel Aviv University, has already written to the attorney general, asking to freeze the appointment of Metzger on the grounds that he is not qualified to be a religious court judge (dayan).
Section 17 of the Chief Rabbinate Law stipulates: "During half of their term as Israel's chief rabbis, one will serve as president of the [Chief Rabbinate] Council and the other will serve as president of the High Rabbinic Court, and during the second half they will switch roles."
In his appeal to the attorney general, Maoz wrote: "This directive raises a problem due to the fact that Rabbi Metzger lacks authorization to serve as a judge... It would be inconceivable for someone who is not authorized to serve as a judge in a lower religious court to be appointed as head of the religious court system by virtue of his election as chief rabbi."
Metzger's appointment to head the religious courts would be comparable to selecting a Supreme Court president who is not qualified to be a traffic court judge, Maoz said.
Referring to the 1998 decision by the Chief Rabbinic Council, Maoz asked: "Will a chief rabbi be appointed as president of the High Rabbinic Court, even if the Council strips his authorization upon concluding that `the way he conducts his life is not appropriate to the status of a judge in Israel?'"
For the record, the professor noted that he had supported a different candidate for chief rabbi in the contest that was decided earlier this month.
Rabbi Metzger's attorney, former justice minister David Liba'i, wrote to the attorney general on Sunday, dismissing the objections to his client as baseless.