Eliyahu's nomination for Sephardic chief rabbi (also known as the "Rishon LeZion") has been criticized due to racist remarks he allegedly made in the past, including calling on Safed residents not to rent their apartments to Arabs, as one of the initiators of the 2010 "rabbis' letter."
Weinstein: Inappropriate candidacy
The attorney general received requests in recent days to disqualify Eliyahu's candidacy over his past statements, but decided to give the rabbi the option to present his side of the story before making a decision and intervening in the matter.
In closed forums, Weinstein voiced his opinion that Eliyahu's candidacy was inappropriate in light of the rabbi's racist statements and the national nature of the position.
Justice Ministry Spokesman Moshe Cohen said in response that "following different appeals received by the attorney general in regards to Rabbi Eliyahu's candidacy for chief rabbi, it was decided that as long as the matter is relevant – the rabbi will be given a hearing on this subject."
Livni: Chief rabbi is Jewish state's face
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday that she had asked the attorney general last month for his opinion on the possibility of launching disciplinary procedures against Rabbi Eliyahu, and that she was looking into the option of launching those procedures now.
"The chief rabbi is not only a halachic authority, but also the face of the Jewish state and its values – both towards the public in Israel and towards the entire world," the minister said.
"A chief rabbi in Israel represents not only the rabbinical institution, but Israel as a state as well. Therefore, his rulings and statements supporting nationalistic discrimination, which reek of racism, may damage the gentle fabric of relations and deepen the animosity and internal rift between us and Israel's Arab citizens."
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the son of late Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and one of the most prominent religious-Zionist rabbis, is among the leading candidates for the position of Sephardic chief rabbi on behalf of the Religious Zionism movement, alongside a Shas candidate who is expected to be one of the sons of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef:
Holon's Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef; Yitzhak Yosef, head of the Hazon Ovadia Yeshiva; or David Yosef, the rabbi of Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood.
Other names mentioned as the next "Rishon LeZion" include Rabbi Zion Boaron, a member of the High Rabbinical Court; Beersheba's Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri, the brother of Shas Chairman Arie Deri; and Kiryat Ono's chief rabbi, the religious-Zionist Ratzon Arusi.