Shas’s controversial bill for amending the current laws on kashrut is scheduled to be brought before the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Sunday despite the strong opposition of coalition partner Kulanu.
Officials in Kulanu stated that the party is considering either voting against the bill in the ministerial committee or appealing it, meaning that it would need the approval of the entire cabinet before advancing to the Knesset.
Meanwhile, Shas chairman and Economy Minister Arye Deri said his party is not willing to compromise at all on the law.
One source in Kulanu said on Saturday night that an agreement is yet to be reached on the issue and that the party was preparing to fight Shas strongly on the issue.
The law has two controversial aspects that Kulanu objects to. First, Shas’s amendment to the Law Against Kashrut Fraud 1983 would prevent any restaurant catering service from presenting themselves as kosher if they do not have kashrut supervision from the Chief Rabbinate.
Under the current terms of the law, although the Chief Rabbinate is recognized as the only authority to give a certificate of kashrut, some restaurants who have objected to various aspect’s of the rabbinate’s management of kashrut supervision have joined the Hashgacha Pratit association that provides Orthodox kashrut supervision.
Such restaurants have declared themselves to be under rabbinic supervision and although the Chief Rabbinate sought to fine these restaurants for infringing the law against kashrut fraud, the attorney-general recently ruled that since they do uphold kashrut standards they could not legally be fined.
Shas’s bill, initiated by MK Yoav Ben-Tzur, states explicitly that a restaurant without a kashrut certificate from the local rabbinate could not in any way present itself as kosher, as do Hashgacha Pratit restaurants at present.
Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria was a leading proponent of the Hashgacha Pratit system from within the Yerushalmim Party in the Jerusalem Municipal Council.
Orthodox Rabbi Aharon Leibowitz, who took Azaria’s spot on the council after she was elected to the Knesset, is the founder of Hashgacha Pratit.
In addition to its attack on this independent kashrut licensing system, Shas’s law could also damage a key reform proposed by Kulanu and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reduce the price of food.
The reform, known as the cornflakes bill, would increase competition in the food market by allowing importers to bring in products made by one particular company and approved for import by Israeli authorities even if they come from a factory outside of the headquarters of that food producer.
Such companies produce food that is approved by the Orthodox Union, a kashrut supervision company in the US, and bear the approval of the Chief Rabbinate when sold in Israel.
Shas’s law would mean that such food items would need approval from the Chief Rabbinate before they could be sold as kosher in Israel.
Opponents of the law say this would increase the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over kashrut licensing and approval and would damage efforts to lower food prices.