The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, has announced his support for Shmuel Eliyahu, currently the chief rabbi of Safed, as chief rabbi of Jerusalem. Eliyahu is well known for his radical views against the Palestinians. He promotes prohibiting Jews from leasing or selling properties to Palestinian students in Safed and even demanded that the city’s Jewish community expel the students from the city.
Eliyahu’s racist statements prompted Israel’s attorney general to investigate him on charges of incitement, but the police only interrogated him briefly before closing the case. However, the charges did hinder his subsequent attempt to campaign for the post of Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Barkat enjoys very close ties to Eliyahu’s family, especially his father Mordechai Eliyahu, who is the former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel. During Jerusalem’s last mayoral elections, Mordechai’s widow openly supported Barkat and his aide for office. Barkat has repeatedly stated that he wants a “Zionist rabbi” for the chief rabbi post in Jerusalem.