Amid the upcoming election for Israel's next chief rabbis, Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday told Army Radio that "in the next elections for the chief rabbinate, in another 10 years, only one chief rabbi will preside."
Currently there are two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi, but "there is no reason to maintain the current situation," according to Bennett.
During the interview, Bennett also responded to comments made by Shas Council of Torah Sages member Rabbi Shlomo Cohen, who called those who wear knitted kippot (a reference to the national religious camp) "Amalek" (the biblical archenemy of the Israelites).
"They should be ashamed of themselves," Bennett said.
"For those who don't know, 'Amalek' is the term used to describe those who need to be wiped from the face of the Earth. No less," said Bennett. "At this very moment thousands of yeshiva students, wearing knitted kippot, are sitting with their teachers and rabbis and studying Torah in hesder yeshivot [which combine religious studies and military service] and other advanced yeshivot. At a later stage, they will also serve in the Israel Defense Forces. The rabbi is calling all of them 'Amalek,' and calling them 'non-Jews.'"
Bennett wrote on his Facebook page Saturday evening that "at this very moment thousands of soldiers with knitted kippot are stationed from the Syrian border to the Egyptian border, from the rank of brigade commander to the last of the soldiers, and are spitting blood to protect [us], including the esteemed rabbi.
"During these very days memorial services are being held for my comrades in arms from the Second Lebanon War, those who sacrificed their lives, among them secular and those who wear knitted kippot; some who fell in valor and were awarded medals for their bravery. They too, for the love of God, are being called 'Amalek' by the rabbi."
Shalom was sitting next to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef when he made the comments. Bennett also called on Yosef to condemn Shalom's incitement "before it was too late."
"On the eve of Tisha B'av [the fast to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples]," wrote Bennett, "I call on all the leaders and representatives of the haredi public, from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who sat during the sermon next to Rabbi Shalom Cohen, to its political representatives: Even if you are not in the government, even if there is political disagreement -- you must condemn and denunciate this type of discourse. I ask and expect that you will do this as soon as this morning, before it is too late. I will not allow this campaign of incitement against the knitted kippot population to continue."