Eliyahu Michael "Eli" Ben-Dahan (Hebrew: אלי בן דהן, born 11 February 1954) is an Israeli Orthodox rabbi and politician. He was Deputy Minister of Religious Services from 2013 to 2015. He currently serves as a member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home, and is the Deputy Minister of Defense. In that position, he is responsible for "pre-military training academies, hesder program which combine military service and yeshiva study, military conversion programs, legislation between Israeli law and the military rule in Judea-Samaria, and to deal with public infrastructure in Judea-Samaria".
|Date of birth||11 February 1954|
|Place of birth||Casablanca, Morocco|
|Year of aliyah||1956|
|Knessets||19, 20, 21|
|Faction represented in Knesset|
|2013–||The Jewish Home|
The eldest of five boys, Ben-Dahan was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and immigrated to Israel in 1956 at the age of two, his family settling in Beersheba. He studied at the Nativ Meir and Mercaz HaRav yeshivas, and is an ordained rabbi. During his national service in the IDF, he became a major in the Artillery Corps. He later went on to gain a teaching certificate, a bachelor's degree in business administration from Touro College, and a master's degree in public policy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was ordained by Rabbis Chalom Messas, Avraham Shapira, and Mordechai Eliyahu.
In 1978, Ben-Dahan was amongst the founders of the Haspin settlement in the Golan Heights. In 1983, he moved to Beit El settlement in the West Bank after being asked by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, then Chief Rabbi of Israel, to manage his office. He became Director-General of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's Rabbinical Court system in 1989, holding the post for 21 years. During his tenure as director of the rabbinical courts, he promoted legislation to enact punitive sanctions on husbands who refused their wives a get (bill of divorce), had the divorce process streamlined, and promoted the introduction of female advocates into the rabbinical courts.
Prior to the 2013 Knesset elections, he was placed fourth on the Jewish Home list, entering the Knesset, as the party won twelve seats. Following the elections, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Religious Services in the new government. He was re-elected in 2015, after being placed fourth on the party's list again. He was subsequently appointed Deputy Minister of Defense in the new government.
In remarks to graduates of a pre-military academy, Ben-Dahan said, "Your most important task is to increase the spiritual strength and protection of the IDF."
Ben-Dahan has stirred controversy with some of his statements, which were cited after his appointment to administer the IDF's civil administration in the West Bank, with jurisdiction over Palestinian residents there:
In 2013, while discussing the resumption of peace talks in a radio interview, Ben-Dahan said: "To me, they [Palestinians] are like animals, they are not human." He further remarked that "the Palestinians aren't educated towards peace, nor do they want it".
In June 2015, Ben-Dahan also spoke out after a Wall Street Journal report claimed Israel used a computer virus to spy on nuclear negotiations with Iran. "The deputy defense minister called the allegations 'nonsense', and assured the interviewer that Israel had other ways of gathering intelligence, and didn't need to resort to hacking."
In July 2015, after a Palestinian youth was shot dead for throwing stones, Ben-Dahan spoke out in defense of the IDF commander, "Throwing stones is terrorism. Stones kill. The Binyamin Brigade commander was acting in self-defense."
In August 2016, after soldiers were ordered to no longer assist migrants in conjunction with NGO Elifelet, Ben-Dahan spoke out in defense of the decision: "These people have infiltrated into Israel, taken Israelis' jobs, and made south Tel Aviv an impossible place to live." He explained that "Israeli soldiers should volunteer for programs that benefit Israeli citizens".
On 18 November 2018, the Jewish Home Party revealed that Netanyahu had made a decision on 15 November 2018, to remove Ben-Dahan as Deputy Defense Minister. Ben-Dahan also released a separate statement criticizing the Israel Prime Minister. Netanyahu also fended off an attempt to hold a vote in Knesset to reinstate Ben-Dahan, who was required by government protocol to resign when Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman officially resigned on 18 November. Despite briefly removing Ben-Dahan from his government, Netanyahu soon gave into pressure from the Jewish Home, and re-appointed Ben-Dahan as Deputy Defense Minister.
- MK Ben Dahan Put in Charge of Army Conversion Programs Arutz Sheva, 7 July 2015
- Rabbi Ben Dahan, Jewish Home: I’ve Worked Hard on Behalf of Women The Jewish Press, 16 January 2013
- Meet the MK: Eli Ben-Dahan The Jerusalem Post, 15 January 2013
- The Jewish Home Central Elections Committee
- Ben-Dahan to Soldiers: Prove Israel is World's Most Moral Army Arutz Sheva, 17 June 2015
- Pileggi, Tamar (15 May 2015). "New deputy defense minister called Palestinians 'animals'". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
- Levy, Gideon (10 May 2015). "Stop Whining. Long Live Israel's New and Honest Government". Haaretz. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
- סגן השר בן דהן: "הפלסטינים הם חיות אדם, הם לא אדם" Nana, 1 August 2013
- בן דהן: נישואי חד-מיניים - כמו בין יהודי וגויה Ma'ariv, 23 December 2013
- Abulof, Uriel (2015). The Mortality and Morality of Nations: Jews, Afrikaners, and French-Canadians. Cambridge University Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-1107097070.
- Spy Virus Linked to Israel Targeted Hotels Used for Iran Nuclear Talks" Wall Street Journal, Times of Israel, 10 June 2015
- Deputy defense minister denies Israel spied on Iran nuke talks" The Times of Israel, 10 June 2015
- Nasi, Dana (12 July 2015). "Binyamin Brigade Commander investigated over shooting incident". Jerusalem Online. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
- "IDF, politicians back officer who killed stone-thrower". The Times of Israel. 3 July 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
- Purkiss, Jessica (14 July 2015). "One incident, two narratives". Middle East Monitor.
- "Defense minister ordered end to soldiers helping migrant kids". Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- Pileggi, Tamar (14 August 2016). "Eli Ben Dahan hails decision barring soldiers from aiding refugees in Tel Aviv, says IDF should focus on programs 'that benefit Israelis'". Times of Israel.
- "Jewish Home party slams Netanyahu for not reappointing deputy defense minister". www.i24news.tv.
- Wootliff, Raoul. "Jewish Home seethes as Netanyahu 'dismisses' deputy defense minister". www.timesofisrael.com.
- Wootliff, Raoul. "After Jewish Home anger, Netanyahu says he'll reappoint deputy defense minister". www.timesofisrael.com.
- Eli Ben-Dahan on the Knesset website