• Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post

Jerusalem Post: Maverick Ex-Shas MK Amsalem Joining Feiglin’s Party

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-Elections/Maverick-ex-Shas-MK-Amsalem-joins-Feiglins-party-578966

“Integrity in politics is a rare thing, and I see Feiglin as someone with integrity,” said Rabbi Haim Amsalem.

One rebel MK joined another on Monday, when Rabbi Haim Amsalem, formerly of Shas, announced he would be running in the Zehut Party, led by ex-Likud lawmaker Moshe Feiglin.

The party said that Amsalem would be in a high spot on its list, but would not specify which.

“Integrity in politics is a rare thing, and I see Feiglin as someone with integrity,” Amsalem said. “Together with the Zehut Party, we will change the face of religious services in the State of Israel.”

Amsalem had a falling-out with Shas in 2010 over his relatively-moderate views on religion and state compared to the party, especially on issues relating to conversion, in which he sought to ease the process for people with Jewish ancestry who the rabbinate does not consider Jewish. He formed his own party ahead of the 2013 election, called Am Shalem, which did not make it over the electoral threshold. He then entered talks to join Bayit Yehudi, but ended up joining Likud in 2014 – criticizing Bayit Yehudi for taking a hardline stance on conversion. But in 2016, he joined Bayit Yehudi and said he planned to run in its primary.

Zehut’s platform calls to abolish the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over religious services in Israel and allow people to choose who would provide those services.

Upon joining the party, Amsalem said that “there is a vacuum on the issues of religious and state, and the decline of religious parties shows that the party is desperate for an alternative, in a different spirit that has disappeared from our lives.”

He expressed hope that Zehut would “free the public from its dependence on the way of the existing religious parties.”

“The time has come for moderate Judaism for all those looking for a Jewish identity,” Amsalem said.

Zehut will hold an open primary on Tuesday, in which any Israeli can vote via the party website without joining the party.

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