Ben Gvir names scion of prominent rabbinic family to his far-right slate

Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu is grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel; Jonathan Pollard turns down chance to enter politics: ‘I’ve suffered enough’

Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu (right) signs an agreement with party leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir to run in the No. 4 slot on the Otzma Yehudit electoral slate in the November 1, 2022 elections. (Twitter)
Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu (right) signs an agreement with party leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir to run in the No. 4 slot on the Otzma Yehudit electoral slate in the November 1, 2022 elections. (Twitter)

Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir has selected the son of a prominent national-religious family for the No. 4 slot on his Otzma Yehudit party’s electoral slate.

Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu, who heads the Organization of Community Rabbis, a rabbinical group, is the grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, and the son of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of Safed and a leading national-religious figure.

Eliyahu’s father has been known for controversial statements and rulings on Jewish law, including one that forbade the rental or sale of Jewish-owned property in the northern city of Safed to Arabs. He has also criticized the Reform movement, the LGBT community, and women serving in IDF combat units.

Eliyahu said it was a “privilege” to be joining Otzma Yehudit and vowed the party would connect a diverse range of citizens “under a banner of love for Torah, love for the nation of Israel, and love of the land of Israel.”

Ben Gvir hailed Eliyahu as “an authentic representative of the knitted and transparent kippah-wearing public who is fighting for Jewish identity.”

The rabbi has been placed behind Otzma Yehudit director-general Yitzhak Wasserlauf, who has the no. 2 spot, and Almog Cohen, the party’s representative for the Negev and periphery.

Jonathan Pollard speaks at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva Jerusalem Day gala on May 10, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Meanwhile, spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard ruled out running for the Knesset with Ben Gvir on Sunday after a report said that the far-right leader was considering offering him a spot.

“It’s important to me to contribute to the nation of Israel, but my place isn’t in the Knesset. I think I’ve already suffered enough,” Pollard was quoted as saying by Channel 12 news.

As an intelligence analyst in the US Navy’s counterterrorism center, Pollard passed thousands of classified US documents to Israel before he was arrested in 1985, convicted of espionage, and sentenced to life in prison two years later.

He was released in 2015 and came to live in Israel in 2020.

Ben Gvir declared last week that his far-right Otzma Yehudit party will run independently in the November 1 general elections, after previously running as part of the Religious Zionism Party. He accused party leader Bezalel Smotrich of failing to negotiate on another joint run in good faith for a continued partnership.

Ben Gvir is widely reported to have demanded more prominent spots on the joint slate, in light of polls showing growing support for his party.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir, left, speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections, in Jerusalem, July 11, 2022; MK Bezalel Smotrich, right, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Otzma Yehudit is made up of disciples of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was banned from running for the Knesset due to its racist principles.

Despite the declaration of separation, an entire month remains before the September 15 deadline for submitting party lists, meaning that there is still time for negotiations on a joint run to be revived and concluded successfully.

Last week, Ben Gvir declared he wanted to introduce a bill providing courts the option to deport Arab citizens who attack soldiers with a nationalistic intent, as well as politicians who are deemed disloyal to the State of Israel.

Otzma Yehudit has of late been boosted by a series of favorable polls, some of which have shown a joint slate receiving more seats if Ben Gvir, rather than Smotrich, headed it. Others have predicted Otzma Yehudit would win more seats than Smotrich’s far-right Religious Zionism party if they were to run separately.

A Channel 12 poll last week, for instance, showed Otzma Yehudit taking eight seats and Religious Zionism just five if the two parties run independently.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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