The son of the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel on Wednesday attacked Yair Lapid, saying the Blue and White No. 2 should “go to hell, along with his father” at a rally to encourage the public to vote for the Shas party in Tuesday’s election.
Lapid is the son of late MK Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, who headed the secular Shinui party.
“He acts according to the will of his deceased father — he should go to hell with him,” Rabbi Avraham Yosef told participants at the Shas event in the coastal city of Holon.
Avraham is the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who served as Sephardic chief rabbi from 1973 to 1983 and was the founder and longtime spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. He was considered the preeminent religious leader of the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.
In 2013, Ovadia Yosef declared that Avraham was his favorite candidate to become the country’s chief rabbi, but subsequently shifted his support to younger brother Yitzhak who went on to receive the post, in part due to a criminal investigation into Avraham and subsequent conviction for breach of trust.
The centrist Blue and White has vowed to form a “secular unity government” if it becomes the largest party after next week’s vote.
At the event in Holon, Shas leader Aryeh Deri called on hundreds of community rabbis to join the political effort and persuade their students and congregants to vote for the party. Recent polls have the ultra-Orthodox party winning around seven seats in the September 17 elections.
“It’s not an election, it’s a referendum,” said Deri. “In England they voted for Brexit and Israeli citizens will will have to choose between a traditional Jewish state and a secular state with no tradition.”
“If, God forbid, the anti-religious parties win and Shas and the religious parties lose, it will be a tragedy for generations to come, the destruction of Judaism. I am sorry to say Netanyahu will probably establish a secular government alongside [Blue and White’s] Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and [Yisrael Beytenu’s] Avigdor Liberman,” Deri said, according to the Ynet news site.
“He will surrender to the extortion of Liberman and Lapid and establish with them a government sans Judaism and sans religious people. Guardians of tradition and Judaism — out; pork eaters and Sabbath desecrators — in,” said Deri.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a majority coalition after the April election because secular Liberman refused to join his government, citing an impasse with ultra-Orthodox parties.
Last month, the ultra-Orthodox community decried Yair Lapid as anti-Semitic after the No. 2 in the centrist alliance tweeted a satirical campaign video portraying senior ultra-Orthodox politicians as venal and corrupt, demanding large sums of money in exchange for pledging loyalty to Netanyahu.
United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman called the ad anti-Semitic, declaring that it had crossed a “red line” and that it was reminiscent of “dark periods in which Jews were portrayed as greedy persecutors.” Lapid responded quickly, stating that he was unwilling to accept criticism from someone who “protects pedophiles,” a reference to allegations that Litzman, the deputy health minister, had improperly protected sex offenders in at least 10 cases.
“I’m also not impressed that they scream ‘hate, hate’ every time someone criticizes them. There is real anti-Semitism in the world: Jews are shot in synagogues. This is not anti-Semitism,” Lapid said. “We will continue to fight for Israel as a Jewish, democratic, free and liberal state.”
Earlier this month, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz vowed to form a secular unity government if he is tasked with putting together a coalition after the elections, appearing to rule out joining forces with ultra-Orthodox and national religious parties.