If you stop and think about it, there's no good reason what Chareidi rabbonim should be involved with any of the official rabbinates in Israel. After all, they don't actually recognize their authority nor do they ascribe any importance to the State except as a piggy bank for their yeshivos so why are they involved?
The answer is simple. They are interested in total control of Jewish life in Israel not just in their own community but in everyone else's as well. How else can they ensure that people will be forced to marry Chareidi-style, divorce Chareidi-style and eat Chareidi-style if they don't control the State organs responsible for those things?
As a result, the greatest threat to their hegemony is not secular disgust with their over-the-top tactics, never ending demandings and growing hypocrisy. Rather, it is the Dati Leumi community which provides proof that one can be God fearing and observant without disparaging the State.
Unfortunately over the last few decades, the Dati Leumi movement has not done well for itself. A lack of direction in other areas combined with an obsession with supporting the brave chalutzim of Yesha has marginalized it in Israeli life. As it stumbled, the Chareidim seized the opportunity to become the dominant and self-proclaimed sole official face of religious Judaism in Israel as well as to take over the rabbinate.
Not everyone has been thrilled with that, including Yerushalayim's new mayor Nir Barkat. Despite using Chareidi political infighting to win the election, he has now come up with a capital idea. The next chief rabbi of Yerushalayim should be Dati Leumi, for all the obvious reasons:
Members of the Zionist religious factions in the capital believe they will be able to reach an agreement with Shas that will allow for the appointment of a Zionist Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
Mayor Barkat said at a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday that there is currently "a genuine opportunity to appoint a Zionist chief rabbi," who can communicate with both the general and observant public...
Rabbi Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, chairman of the Tzohar organization, added that, "It is unthinkable that at a time when Zionism is under attack around the world, we do not place a Zionist figure at the heart of this country."
The Chareidi response to this intiative has been predictable:
Ultra-Orthodox leaders in Jerusalem are threatening to cut off all ties with the municipal rabbinate if the city elects a Zionist chief rabbi. Mayor Nir Barkat recently declared that he is committed to appointing a Zionist rabbi for the city.
"If there's a rabbi whose level or halachic views do not correspond with the haredim's demands – the spiritual leaders will call on the community to shun the Jerusalem rabbinate," declared city council member Shlomo Rosenstein (United Torah Judaism)
When I was a kid, it went something like this: "If I don't get to make all the rules, I'm taking my toys and going home!" Today it's "If we can't run everything without interference and the way we want it, we won't participate." Hardly the stuff of achdus and nation building.
If the Chareidim feel that they are more religious than the Dati Leumi, that is their right. Naturally there are no objective measures to decide on this. Both communities prize Torah learning and expect high levels of observance from their adherents. Both communities have great scholars who are interested in furthering the halachic understandings of the movements. The only real reason that the Chareidi gedolim have come to be seen as the leading poskim in the world is because, well it's because the Chareidim have said it over and over so many times that people simply shrug and accept it now. Pull off the emperor's clothes, though, and the claim falls flat quite quickly.
In any case, recent events have conspired to work against the Chareidim:
Seeking to defuse an explosive haredi-secular conflict, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced Tuesday that the municipality had asked a court to open a parking lot opposite the Jaffa Gate on Saturdays.
But the mayor added that if the Jerusalem District Court did not agree to allow the opening of the Carta parking lot - which is currently in receivership - by this weekend, he would reopen the municipal lot at Safra Square this Shabbat.
The Eda Haredit announced that if the municipal lot was opened again on Shabbat, it would "set the whole country, and not just Jerusalem, on fire."
"The Jerusalem municipality has declared a holy war against Shabbat," said posters hung up in Mea She'arim.
Every time Chareidim behave badly we are told it's the work of outsiders, or a few disturbed thugs, or because of provocations. It's time to put those weak excuses aside. In truth, it seems that rioting and threatening others is de rigeur in the Chareidi community. Chareidim are usually proud to say that they do everything that their gedolim tell them to do. When they succeed, they trumpet this proudly, so why should I not conclude that when they attack police and innocent bystanders in their mistplaced zeal to defend Shabbos, that they are not reflecting the best of the their community as well?
The price of social peace is to cater to the whim of a community that behaves like a spoiled brat whenever it doesn't get what it wants. Is it a price worth paying?