Conversion crisis recommendations won't be made on time, says coordinator

“I'm meeting with lots of people, and I need to hear from everyone, and you cant write a document in such a short amount of time.”

December 18, 2017 12:45
2 minute read.
MEMBERS OF Women of the Wall pray at the Kotel.

MEMBERS OF Women of the Wall pray at the Kotel.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Efforts to draft a compromise agreement between the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political parties and the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements in Israel over the complex and encumbered issue of Jewish conversion will not be finished before a six-month deadline arrives at the end of this month.

Former justice minister Moshe Nissim, who has been tasked with formulating recommendations for a compromise, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday it would not be possible to complete his work before the end of December.

“I don’t think it will be possible to finish in the next two weeks,” he said. “I’m meeting with lots of people, and I need to hear from everyone, and you can’t write a document in such a short amount of time.”

As previously reported by the Post, Nissim only began working in November.

On Monday, he said he had been asked to take up the task of formulating recommendations a considerable time after a compromise agreement was requested and had taken some time before agreeing to do it.

Nissim also said there were “organizational delays” in getting started, including the absence of a suitable place to conduct meetings and consultations, something he termed “a bit embarrassing.”

The six-month deadline was based on a request by the progressive movements to the High Court of Justice that it refrain from ruling on a potentially explosive petition of theirs that would afford their conversions heightened legal status.

Should that deadline pass and the Reform and Masorti movements not request an additional deferral, the High Court could issue a ruling in favor of the progressive denominations that would create fury among the Haredi political parties, causing them to advance legislation on the issue and reignite the Israel-Diaspora crisis on the issue.

At the end of June, a bill proposed by Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri to give the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over conversions was approved by the government for a vote in the Knesset.

This aroused the fury of the Reform and Conservative movements in the US and Israel, as well as intense opposition from moderate national-religious groups and rabbis, since it would damage the legal standing of Orthodox, non-state conversions.

Coming after the crisis over the cancellation of the Western Wall agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convinced Shas and United Torah Judaism to freeze their legislation and got the progressive movements to request the deferral from the High Court.

“This obviously allows me to establish a team that will work for six months and find solutions for consensus agreement on the issue of conversion,” Netanyahu said at the time.

In their petition, the progressive denominations request that individuals who converted in Israel under their auspices but who were not citizens be granted Israeli citizenship by dint of their conversion, under the terms of the Law of Return.

Non-Orthodox converts who converted abroad already enjoy this right, but it is something that has not been afforded such converts in Israel.

In response to questions from the Post, leaders of the Reform and Masorti movements said they had not yet decided whether they would request another deferral from the High Court.

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