Gov't decides to defer vote on IDF conversion bill

Netanyahu decides to defer to Shas leadership's desire for Rabbi Amar's official position on issue; Israel Beiteinu slams Shas party's dithering.

December 12, 2010 16:39
2 minute read.
Netanyahu speaks in Tel Aviv, Monday.

Netanyahu tilting head 311 GPO. (photo credit: GPO)

The government on Sunday agreed to defer the cabinet vote on the Israel Beiteinu's proposed bill to grant the IDF Rabbinate the ability to grant conversions independent from Chief Rabbinate review until this Wednesday at the earliest.

The decision to delay the vote came as a result of an agreement between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Shas ministers Eli Yishai and Ariel Attias to avoid the possibility of the bill's tearing the coalition apart. As Shas's appeal against the Ministerial Committee for Legislation's decision to support the bill was still standing, it could seriously impede coalition support for the bill if it came to a government vote on Wednesday.

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The coalition would seek to find a way to solve the impasse between Shas and Israel Beiteinu regarding the bill in a manner that respected the views and honor of the Chief Rabbinate and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Netanyahu said after reaching the decision.

Israel Beiteinu leader Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman roundly criticized coalition partner Shas's opposition to its proposed bill to create a military conversion authority independent from the Chief Rabbinate.

"Shas's position has no relation to religion or Jewish law. It is simply an attempt to assert its own authority over the army," said Lieberman. "Is the army chief rabbi a heretic," Lieberman asked rhetorically. He continued, the [army chief rabbi] is not familiar with Judaism? Can he not sign the certificates of conversion for IDF soldiers?"

"Israel Beiteinu will not accept any compromise, no deferred vote, and no [backroom] deals. We will pass the bill on the first, second and third readings as soon as is possible," Lieberman stated forcefully.

Lieberman's Sunday remarks echoed those made by fellow Israeli Beiteinu MK David Rotem earlier in the day.  In an interview with Army Radio, Rotem announced his opposition to the creation of two separated conversion tracks to Judaism in Israel.

"Two types of conversion is not good from a legal standpoint," Rotem said during the interview. "Now they [Shas] are creating a division between civil conversions and army conversions."

He continued, "I invited those who work on the issue of conversions in the field [to testify before the Knesset]. The IDF conversion are valid and done according to halacha. They [the IDF converts] are Jews."

With two key coalition parties going head-to-head in Sunday’s government meeting over IDF conversions, Israel Beiteinu has threatened that government acquiescence in Shas’s opposition to an Israel Beiteinu- sponsored bill would constitute a violation of their coalition agreement.

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