Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu was asked this week by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to explain past hostile remarks toward Israeli Arabs before seeking the position of Sephardi chief rabbi. The attorney general's letter, sent on Tuesday, stated, "It appears that your choice to serve at the highest level is likely to be found unsuitable and to raise legal difficulties."
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Weinstein requested that Eliyahu address specific anti-Arab public statements made by Eliyahu in the past, which were appended to the letter. From the letter it was clear that Eliyahu had already vigorously denied various statements attributed to him, but Weinstein requested that he address specific quotes.
Among the quotes appended to the letter was one from an interview with settler-oriented media outlet Arutz Sheva. "The Arab students at the Safed Academic College must be thrown out," Eliyahu said. "Yes I am saying this explicitly and I'm not afraid of anyone - only someone who has shifted his loyalty to the State of Israel has the right to learn."
A week ago, Weinstein announced that he would hold a disciplinary hearing if Eliyahu decided to run for the chief rabbinate due to its being a government position.
In response, Eliyahu contacted Weinstein at the beginning of this week for an explanation of what was meant by the Justice Ministry announcement regarding a disciplinary hearing.
Eliyahu, son of the late Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, also informed Weinstein that he had gathered the 20 signatures necessary to present his candidacy for Sephardi chief rabbi.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel stated that due to his anti-Arab pronouncements, Eliyahu was not even fit to serve as chief rabbi of Safed. The organization recently contacted Justice Minister Tzipi Livni requesting that disciplinary proceedings be opened against Eliyahu to remove him from his current position. Livni responded that she was considering the matter.