David Rotem

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David Rotem
David Rotem 005.jpg
Date of birth (1949-01-11) 11 January 1949 (age 66)
Place of birth Israel
Knessets 17, 18, 19
Faction represented in Knesset
2007– Yisrael Beiteinu

David Rotem (Hebrew: דוד רותם‎, born 11 January 1949) is an Israeli politician and member of the Knesset for Yisrael Beiteinu.


David Rotem was born in Bnei Brak, Israel, [1]and grew up in Jerusalem. He attended Horev, a religious elementary School and the Horev Yeshiva High School. From 1966 to 1967 he studied at Bell Lane, a Jewish school in London, U.K.. [2]In 1967-1971 he studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, gaining an LLB.

In 1972 he became an assistant at the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University, a position he held until 1977. Between 1978 and 1980 he worked as a lecturer on legislative law at the same institution. He has also served as a member of the executive committee of Sha'arei Tzedek Medical Center, and deputy chairman of the Central Elections Committee.

He speaks Yiddish and English.[3]His nickname is Dudu.[4]He serves on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations. [5]

Political career[edit]

Formerly a member of Mafdal, for the 2006 Knesset elections he was placed twelfth on the Yisrael Beiteinu list.[6] Although the party won only eleven seats, Rotem entered the Knesset on 16 January 2007 as a replacement for the deceased Yuri Stern. He retained his seat in the 2009 elections, for which he was placed eighth on the party's list. He was re-elected for a third term in the 2013 elections on the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list.

Known for his "typical bluntness," and serving as the "powerful chairman" of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee,[7] Rotem has worked on issues of religion and state. An Orthodox Jew himself, he has conducted negotiations regarding the conversion and civil partnership bills, two laws his party promised to pass, mainly to benefit immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The conversion bill was criticized by both the Orthodox and the Reform constituents, while civil partnership bill was attacked by those favoring civil marriage in Israel. [8]The civil union law, while limited, was passed and survived review by the High Court. It applies only to unions where both Israelis are listed as "without religion," but Rotem described it as a first step in the direction of civil marriages.[9]Civil marriage advocates, who note that this law affects approximately 30,000 Israelis, view it as a positive development they hope that may will lead to "more far-reaching legislation."[10]

In 2010 Rotem's committee unanimously approved a bill allowing Israeli absorption committees of small communities to reject applicants who not meet certain criteria, such as "suitability to the community's fundamental outlook." Critics called this legislation racist and discriminatory, since it would allow communities to deny residence to applicants based on their gender, religion, or socioeconomic status. [11]As committee chair, Rotem commented on criticism that the bill's intent was to deny equal residential access to Arabs: "In my opinion, every Jewish town needs at least one Arab. What would happen if my refrigerator stopped working on a Saturday?"[12]A petition to overturn the law was filed, but the law was upheld by a 5-4 vote of the Israeli High Court of Justice.[13]

Rotem was involved in conversion legislation in 2010 that created difficulties with the Jewish diaspora. Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, noted that Rotem said he intended to solve the problem of conversions, but in a move that the diaspora though was "sleight-of-hand," Rotem inserted an amendment making conversion subject to the Israeli chief Rabbinate, an institution viewed as hostile to the Jewish diaspora. Sarna recalled that Rotem insisted he was misunderstood and was sorry. Richard Jacobs (rabbi), president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Rotem's bill was stopped because "Jewish federations and denominations leaned heavily on Prime Minister Netanyahu.” Jacobs commented that the diaspora considers some of Rotem's perspective problematic because of the high impact legislation Rotem's committee works on, such as issues of Jewish identity and pluralism.[14]To avert what The New York Times called a "crisis" in the relationship between Israel and the diaspora, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared he would delay this legislation which “could tear apart the Jewish people.” Rotem, on the other hand, said criticism was based on misinterpretation of the legislation on the part of Reform and Conservative leaders. “They need to check the facts before they speak. They are acting like absolute idiots.”[15]

In June 2013 Rotem was in line to become the newest addition to the influential Judicial Nominations Committee. However, in a last minute upset, he was defeated by a candidate from the opposition. [16]

In political matters regarding religion, Rotem continued to generate some controversy. In 2013, Rotem said in an interview that Reform rabbis were not rabbis, [17]and in 2014 while head of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Rotem was heard referring to the Jewish Reform movement as “another religion” and “not Jewish.”[18]The director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman labelled Rotem’s comments “inappropriate, offensive and unjustified,” and demanded a quick and unequivocal apology to Reform Jews. When publication of the remark created an uproar, Rotem wrote to a critic: “Indeed, this comment was a mistake, and I intend to rectify it at the upcoming meeting of the committee on Sunday.” The executive director of the Reform Movement in Israel, Gilad Kariv, he explained to Rotem why the term “another religion” was so disturbing to non-Orthodox Jews. “Beyond the obvious reasons, this is a legal term that appears in the Law of Return, where it says that a Jew who practices ‘another religion’ is not eligible for aliyah, and that is very significant,” said Kariv.[19]On the other hand, fellow Knesset member Uri Maklev defended Rotem against Reform Jewish pressure, saying, "The Reform movement persecutes the Jewish people and attempts to crushes it from within...They are the biggest enemy of the Jewish people and they cause assimilation. [The Reform movement's] tentacles are everywhere. They bribe politicians and the press. They have created an unprecedented pressure group.”[20]

In February 2014, a meeting between U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro and Knesset "Land of Israel" caucus members, which was supposed to be closed and off the record, was secretly recorded and leaked to the press. Rotem was quoted in the meeting as challenging the American ambassador. “How can we trust you?” Rotem demanded. “When have you stood by us in the past?” While then MK Reuven Rivlin joined Rotem in criticizing the American approach, others like MK Hilik Bar lamented the Knesset members' attacks on "the ambassador of our closest friend." [21]

In August 2014 Rotem joined several other right-wing Israeli legislators in sponsoring a bill that would make Hebrew the only official language of Israel. Current law, which dates back to the British Mandate, requires that both Arabic and Hebrew be used in a wide variety of government functions, including the legal system and government ministries. [22]

On January 6, 2015 Rotem announced that he plans to leave politics and will not campaign as a candidate in Israel's election planned for March 2015.[23]


  • Settlements in the West Bank

Participating in a 2007 demonstration march on the then Prime Minister Olmert's residence, Rotem said, "We're telling the Israeli government to not raise its hand to divide Jerusalem or to raise its hand against the settlements in Judea and Samaria." He continued: "We did not build these settlements in vain. And we will not allow the Israeli government, the minister of defense or the prime minister to freeze construction."[24]In 2014 Rotem delayed legislation that would require transparency in settlement funding, noting he did not want to provide opponents with information that could be used to " bring a Supreme Court lawsuit and prevent construction in Judea and Samaria.”[25]

  • On drafting Haredim

Rotem believes all Israelis should be drafted for national service, including Haredim and Arabs. [26]In a panel discussion on the Knesset television station, he stated, “It is preferable to have goyim that fight on behalf of the state and are willing to die than to have parasites that remain unwilling to contribute to the state. [27]

  • On the national anthem

When a Christian Arab-Israeli Supreme Court judge, Justice Salim Joubran, did not join in singing “Hatikvah,” the national anthem with explicit references to Judaism, Rotem called for the judge’s removal. [28][29]While most Jewish Israelis found the justice's behavior appropriate as he stood respectfully but refrained from singing, Rotem declared that anyone who objects to the Zionist anthem “can find a state with a more appropriate anthem and move there.”[30]

  • Recognition of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Rotem commented on his views regarding Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel. “We will not recognize non-Orthodox rabbis, conversions or marriage,” Rotem said. "I don’t need Conservative and Reform communities in this country. In this country you can be Jewish, religious or not religious, and I don’t want to change this. I don’t want a Reform rabbi to check my dishes,” he added.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Rotem currently lives in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, and is married with five children.


  1. ^ "Israel Our Home web site" http://www.beytenu.org/yisrael-beytenu-mks-in-the-19th-knesset/david-rotem/
  2. ^ "Knesset web site" https://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?id=805
  3. ^ "Knesset web site" https://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?id=805
  4. ^ "'A Talk With MK David Rotem, Head of Knesset's Law Comm' Israel National News (10 Jan 2013)" http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12714#.VKDTTFKxeY
  5. ^ "Beytenu web site"http://www.beytenu.org/yisrael-beytenu-mks-in-the-19th-knesset/david-rotem/
  6. ^ List of Candidates: Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset website
  7. ^ "Yair Rosenberg 'Religious Revolution in Israel' (26 Dec 2012) Tablet Magazine" http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/120125/religious-revolution-in-israel
  8. ^ "Yair Ettinger 'MK David Rotem, have you forgotten the promise you made to your voters about civil marriage?' (11 March 2010) Haaretz" http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/mk-david-rotem-have-you-forgotten-the-promise-you-made-to-your-voters-about-civil-marriage-1.264644
  9. ^ "'Court rejects petition, leaves Civil Union Law intact' Jerusalem Post (18 Oct 2012)"http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Court-rejects-petition-leaves-Civil-Union-Law-intact
  10. ^ "Rachael Gelfman Schultz 'Civil Marriage in Israel: For a large number of Israelis, religious politics and identity issues disrupt the pursuit of holy matrimony.' My Jewish Learning" http://www.myjewishlearning.com/israel/Contemporary_Life/Society_and_Religious_Issues/Freedom_of_Religion/civil_marriage_in_israel.shtml
  11. ^ "Jodi Rudoren 'Israel Struggles With Its Identity' (8 Dec 2014) The New York Times" http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/09/world/middleeast/israels-nationality-bill-stirs-debate-over-religious-and-democratic-identity.html
  12. ^ " Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury 'Knesset panel approves controversial bill allowing towns to reject residents: Israeli Arab MKs al-Sana and Tibi walk out on committee discussion, calling it a 'criminal law' aiming to prevent Arabs from joining Israeli towns' (27 Oct 2010) Haaretz"http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/knesset-panel-approves-controversial-bill-allowing-towns-to-reject-residents-1.321433
  13. ^ "'Israeli High Court of Justice upholds controversial residential screening law: Human Rights groups say legislation promotes racism and discrimination' i24news (18 Sept 2014)"http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/44247-140918-israeli-high-court-of-justice-upholds-controversial-residential-screening-law
  14. ^ "David Holzel 'Is David Rotem misunderstood?' (12 Feb 2014) Washington Jewish Week" http://washingtonjewishweek.com/10157/is-david-rotem-misunderstood/
  15. ^ "Ethan Bronner 'Israel Puts Off Crisis Over Conversion Law' (23 July 2010) The New York Times" http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/24/world/middleeast/24israel.html
  16. ^ "'Gafni: Moshiach Won't Come Because of Anti-Jewish Knesset Committee' (10 June 2013) Baltimore jewish Life" http://baltimorejewishlife.com/news/print.php?ARTICLE_ID=38761
  17. ^ "'A Talk With MK David Rotem, Head of Knesset's Law Comm' Israel National News (10 Jan 2013)" http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12714#.VKDTTFKxeY
  18. ^ "Maltz, Judy 'Eight major victories for non-Orthodox Judaism in 2014: Despite a few setbacks, this year showed signs of growing, though at times begrudging, acceptance of Israel's Reform and Conservative movements.' (Dec 15, 2014) Haaretz" http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/.premium-1.631933
  19. ^ "Judy Maltz'Israeli parliamentarian: Calling Reform 'not Jewish’ was a 'mistake’ Leader of Reform Movement in Israel confronts David Rotem directly.' (6 Feb 2014) Haaretz" http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.572796
  20. ^ "Gil Ronen 'Hareidi MK: Why Apologize to Reform Jews? MK Uri Maklev thinks MK Rotem should not have apologized to Reform Jews, 'who persecute the Jewish people. (2 Sept 2014) Israel National News" http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/177256#.VKhfwihYQ3Q
  21. ^ "HAVIV RETTIG GUR 'Right-wing MKs apologize to US envoy for leak: Ambassador Shapiro said to accept apology after details of stormy meeting with Land of Israel Caucus appear in the press' (26 Feb 2014) The Times of Israel" http://www.timesofisrael.com/right-wing-mks-apologize-to-us-envoy-for-leak/
  22. ^ "'Israel Lawmakers Push Hebrew-Only Bill: Right Wingers Want To Dump Arabic' (26 Aug 2014) JTA" http://forward.com/articles/204681/israel-lawmakers-push-hebrew-only-bill/
  23. ^ Israel election updates / Jerusalem deputy mayor Rachel Azaria joins Kahlon's Kulanu Haaretz, 6 Jan 2015
  24. ^ "Scott Wilson 'Palestinians Give Voice to Contempt for Annapolis Talks' (28 Nov 2007) The Washington Post" p://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/27/AR2007112701008.html
  25. ^ "J.J. Goldberg 'Rightist Foils Bid to Open Books of Settlement Unit' (6 April 2014) The Jewish Daily Forward" http://blogs.forward.com/jj-goldberg/196015/rightist-foils-bid-to-open-books-of-settlement-uni/
  26. ^ "'A Talk With MK David Rotem, Head of Knesset's Law Comm' Israel National News (10 Jan 2013)" http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/12714#.VKDTTFKxeY
  27. ^ "'MK Rotem Calls Chareidim Parasites On TV' The Yeshiva World (4 July 2012)"http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/ywn-videos/132458/video-mk-rotem-calls-chareidim-parasites-on-tv.html
  28. ^ "Aaron Kalman 'Deputy PM defends judge who kept lips sealed during Hatikva' (29 Feb 2012) Times of Israel" http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-christian-supreme-court-judge-doesnt-sing-hatikva/
  29. ^ "Jodi Rudoren 'Israel Struggles With Its Identity' (8 Dec 2014) The New York Times" http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/09/world/middleeast/israels-nationality-bill-stirs-debate-over-religious-and-democratic-identity.html
  30. ^ "Ethan Bronner 'Anger and Compassion for Arab Justice Who Stays Silent During Zionist Hymn' (4 March 2012) The New York Times" http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/world/middleeast/anger-and-compassion-for-justice-who-stays-silent-during-zionist-hymn.html
  31. ^ "'Yisrael Beytenu wants national-religious chief rabbi' Jerusalem Post (16 Dec 2012)

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