After the cabinet delayed a decision on a bill to confirm the status of
conversions carried out by the IDF, Israel Beiteinu struck back on Sunday
evening, threatening to put the coalition-splitting measure up for vote on the
If action is not taken to ensure the status of IDF
conversions by Wednesday morning, the bill that has pitted Israel Beiteinu
against Shas will be placed before the Knesset.
Earlier on Sunday, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pled with Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman
to delay the vote on the legislation, which has already been approved as a
government bill by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
the government was set to debate and vote on an appeal by Minister in the Prime
Minister’s Office Meshulam Nahari (Shas) against the committee’s decision to
support the bill, which was supported by all except for the two Shas ministers
on the panel.
The bill, drafted by Law and Constitution Committee
chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) together with Israel Beiteinu faction
chairman Robert Ilatov, would grant autonomous and legitimate status to the
conversions taking place in the IDF, effectively detaching the military
conversion courts from the Chief Rabbinate. Shas believes this
constitutes a breach of the status quo on religious matters.
forth the bill after Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar failed to unequivocally
endorse the IDF conversions with his signature, a technicality that had been
overlooked for years, but that was revealed a few months ago in a High Court of
Justice hearing on a petition regarding annulled conversions.
after the court hearing, Amar issued a letter in which he wrote that the IDF
conversions were recognized by the Chief Rabbinate. But at the same time,
he asked to form a committee from within the Rabbinate that would advise him on
those IDF conversions he would need to sign off on, as the law
Amar had said he would prefer that the issue of military
conversions be bound with the broader conversion bill that Rotem had also
introduced. Upon realizing that he would not be able to do so, cabinet
secretary Zvi Hauser said on Sunday, he resolved to try and resolve the IDF
problem without further ado.
In recent days, intensive negotiations
between the Prime Minister’s Office and Amar, who is currently out of the
country, led to the understanding that the problem with the military conversions
is considered a technicality by the rabbi, and will be resolved by him as soon
Based on this premise, Netanyahu, as well as the other
ministers who had supported the bill in the ministerial committee vote, implored
Lieberman to allow a few more days for the problems of IDF conversions to be
resolved by Amar, rather than by legislation, which risked creating a second
class of conversions in Israel. Most conversions in the country are now being
conducted in the army.
If the problem is not resolved by the Chief
Rabbinate, the cabinet will remove Nahari’s appeal and vote on the bill the same
way the ministerial committee did, Hauser said on Sunday.
“There is no
halachic problem with the conversions carried out by the IDF, and the only
reason for the current argument is Shas’s desire to control the entire IDF
conversion system,” Israel Beiteinu said in an official announcement on Sunday
evening. “There is no reason to change anything and to make the IDF subordinate
to the Chief Rabbinical Council, which is controlled by anti-Zionist elements
who do not serve in the military.
“Since the state was established,
Israel was the melting pot for the people of Israel, and there is no reason that
soldiers, the citizens of the country who defend the state and are willing to
give their lives for the state and who were converted according to the Jewish
law practiced in the State of Israel should be harmed as a result of political
Israel Beiteinu officials indicated on Sunday evening they
believed that they could get a majority in the Knesset to support the
Should the bill be brought up for its preliminary reading on
Wednesday, opposition party Kadima is likely to vote in favor.
government’s delay of the decision that was designed to unquestionably clarify
that IDF conversions are legal and recognized crushes the legitimacy and ability
to function of the IDF’s conversion system, which has successfully converted
thousands of IDF soldiers over decades,” MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima)
“Netanyahu once again preferred to make an anti-Zionist and
anti-Jewish deal with Shas, at the expense of the convert soldiers who linked
their fates with that of our country.”
Kadima officials accused Netanyahu
of agreeing to delay the decision on the bill in exchange for promises from Shas
that the party would not vote to establish a government investigative commission
to probe the Carmel fire in which 43 people died.
“This was a cynical and
pathetic action taken by a scared man who understands that the flames of the
State Comptroller’s Report on the Fire and Rescue Service – which showed that he
and his government abandoned Israel’s citizens – threaten to remove him from
office,” Kadima spokesman Shmulik Dahan said.
“Netanyahu is trying,
through any way possible, to flee from responsibility for the tragedy and is
trading the conversion of IDF soldiers like money in his battle for personal
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