Even after explicitly being ordered to do so by the Moetzet Chachmei Hatorah of Shas, MK Chaim Amsalem last night remained firm in his refusal to return his mandate to Shas.
On Monday night, the four-man council headed by Rav Ovadia Yosef convened to consider “the sentiments expressed by Chaim Amsalem, who unlawfully spoke out against the dear yeshiva students… to gain the approval of those who hate the Torah,” the council said in a statement that was read out.
“He started with distorting Halacha on matters of conversions conducted by our rabbinical courts… and recently attacked married yeshiva students at length… and caused a huge desecration.
“We demand of Mr. Chaim Amsalem by the law of Torah to return his mandate to Shas, in accordance with his commitment [to abide with the council’s rulings] when we decided to add his name to the list of Shas MKs,” the statement read, taking care not to call Amsalem a rabbi.
“If he doesn’t do so, he is a thief in broad daylight…And we call on all of those who care about the Torah to keep far away from him and his strange and heretical opinions.”
In an interview with Channel 10, Amsalem reiterated that “the mandate will not return,” as he was voted into the Knesset to represent the Sephardi public, and does so in his moderate approach.
Key to Amsalem’s approach, and perhaps what is most problematic to his party’s line, is his call on those who aren’t destined to be great Torah scholars and who have families to work, and not live on “shameful” allotments.
The recent proposed amendment to the economic arrangements bill that would provide special support to poor kollel students has yet to be approved.
Amsalem also intensified his attacks on Shas chairman Eli Yishai, calling him “an embarrassment” to Israel who causes people to cringe when he opens his mouth to speak, and who acts like the head of a crime family in internal party politics.
Meanwhile, Amsalem continued to receive broad public support not only from the secular media and public, but also from political parties that realize his electoral potential, especially keeping in mind that most of Shas’s constituency are not charedim.
Both Young Likud and the Labor’s secretary-general Chilik Bar invited Amsalem, 51, to join their parties, but the Shas lawmaker would not commit himself.
Amsalem has time and again said that his approach is supported even by some other Shas MKs, who dare not speak out publicly, but agree with him that their party doesn’t exemplify the traditional Sephardi approach to Torah, but rather the stringent Lithuanian-Ashkenazi line led by Yishai.
“I want to see a party with a proud constituency of people who earn a living and bring others closer to a Torah with ‘all its paths pleasant and harmonious,'” Amsalem told Channel 10, quoting from Mishlei, “not an angry, threatening Torah, eternally irascible.”