Metzger to Resume Position Despite AG's Accusation of Graft

Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger will end his suspension and return next month to his position as both a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court and a member of the committee that appoints religious court judges, the Justice Ministry decided yesterday.

The Justice Ministry's appointments committee, headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, decided to ignore Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's advice and unanimously endorsed Metzger's decision to end his voluntary suspension.

Metzger is expected to succeed Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in six weeks.

Metzger had been forced to suspend himself in April 2006, following the Ometz nonprofit's petition to the High Court of Justice to order the justice minister to remove Metzger, as recommended by the attorney general.

Mazuz had recommended ousting Metzger due to a criminal investigation into the rabbi's affairs, although he did not find grounds for indictment. The probe focused on a number of cases in which Metzger and his family had stayed, free of charge, in Jerusalem hotels. Metzger also allegedly received inordinate state funding for hotel rooms and his official residence.

"We feel there is no cause for continuing the rabbi's voluntary suspension," wrote David Libai, Metzger's attorney. "The criminal file has been closed for almost two years, there is no disciplinary procedure against the rabbi and the attorney general has also changed his mind about calling for the rabbi's resignation. To the best of our understanding, there is no obstacle preventing Rabbi Metzger from returning to his position as religious court judge and member of the appointments committee for religious court judges," Libai said.

Nevertheless, Libai announced in Metzger's name that he did not intend to participate in the committee's meeting, which would address his removal. Ometz attorney Boaz Arad asked Friedmann to prevent meetings of the committee if Metzger returns to serve on the committee - except for meetings discussing his removal.

"The committee for religious judges' appointments has been unable to reach a decision for a long time, and the circumstances enabled Metzger to believe that the causes that led him to suspend himself from his judicial position and participation in the committee ... have ended and no longer exist," Arad wrote to Friedmann.

"But the return of a figure with morals such as those of Rabbi Metzger to a judicial role, and even more to a judge's post on the Supreme Rabbinical Court, is unbearable from any public perspective," he said.