Knesset Confirms Rabbi Toledano As Cabinet Member; Opposition Abstains

Rabbi Jacob M. Toledano, former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, was sworn in today as Israel’s new Minister for Religious Affairs after a three-day debate in Knesset marked by two defeated motions of non-confidence in Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s coalition government.

The confirming vote was 60 to two with 38 abstentions. The two opposition votes were cast by the Communist party. Abstaining were four parties, including the National Religious Party which had vigorously sought to persuade Rabbi Toledano against accepting the post left open by the resignation of its leader Moshe Shapiro in the dispute over the issue of self-identification by Israeli citizens as Jews for registry purposes. The other abstaining parties were Herut, the General Zionists and the ultra-Orthodox Agudas Israel.

Before the vote on confirmation, the Knesset rejected 60 to 30 a non-confidence motion proposed by Herut, the religious bloc and Agudas Israel. Rabbi Toledano, apparently unmoved by the political excitement and the heavy pressure campaign against his acceptance from orthodox sources both in side and outside of Israel, took the oath of office and received the congratulations of the entire Cabinet.

In the course of the debate today, Premier Ben Gurion explained his decision to name Rabbi Toledano to the Cabinet as part of a program to increase the representation of the Sephardic community in the government, so as to remove the feeling that the community was being discriminated against. Opposition candidates jibed at him, noting the decision came on the eve of a national election campaign.

The Premier scored the campaign to get Rabbi Toledano to withdraw his acceptance of the portfolio and criticized the Chief Rabbinate for its resolution opposing Toledano’s acceptance. The people, he continued, would not tolerate two governments–one elected, and the other by a rabbinate “under the patronage of a political party.”

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