Rabbi Shai Piron, a Yesh Atid MK and a close friend of the party leader Yair Lapid, distanced himself on Tuesday from a religious ruling he issued in 2002 prohibiting Jewish homeowners from selling their property to Arabs.
Army Radio reported Tuesday that the controversial remarks were made on the online religious forum Kippa, where youths regularly discuss religious matters and post questions for rabbinical figures.
"It is forbidden to sell homes to Arabs, particularly when the prohibition 'show no mercy' applies," Piron wrote, referring to a Biblical passage specifying how the Israelites should treat the Canaanite nations. "Selling a home to an Arab against the unfolding struggle taking place at this very moment is particularly prohibited." At the time the Second Intifada was at its peak.
Piron, who is second on his party's list, deflected the criticism on Tuesday. His office issued a statement saying that the ruling had been made "in response to a question, and dealt with how Judaism views the matter [allowing Arabs to buy one's property]. The response does not reflect his personal views."
"On the issue of selling apartments to Arabs, Rabbi Piron does not stand by the ruling; his efforts to bring people together proves this point beyond all doubt," the statement said. Several years ago, Piron lambasted a Safed rabbi over a similar prohibition against Arabs, Army Radio reported.
The report came against the backdrop of the battle for the education minister's portfolio, which Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid had promised to Piron.