The New Right wants a “wider” range of conversion options than those that exist today, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said at an English-language event in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
However, Shaked said that the process would still be in line with Orthodox Judaism.
“We want to encourage more and more people to convert to Judaism, and the best way to do that is through the army,” she said, praising the efforts of religious-Zionist Rabbi Haim Druckman on this front.
Former Jerusalem Post columnist and New Right candidate Caroline Glick, who joined Shaked onstage, said that seeking a freer conversion process was one of the reasons Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett broke off from Bayit Yehudi.
“Jewish identity in Israel is very important to us,” Shaked said. “As education minister, Bennett reinforced this, even though he faced extreme criticism from the Left and the media. As a mother of two children, I definitely want them to learn about Jewish tradition and we plan to continue this in our new party.”
The party’s policies on religion and state will be based on the Gavison-Medan Convenant, written in 2004 by law professor Ruth Gavison and Rabbi Yaacov Medan, meant to set guidelines for coexistence between religious and secular Jews in Israel.
Shaked did not directly address questions about the involvement of the Conservative and Reform Movements in Israel, except to say that their conversions conducted abroad should continue to be recognized by the government, but of those conducted in Israel, only Orthodox conversions would be recognized.
She said that the party supports the compromise to expand the egalitarian section of the Western Wall in cooperation with the non-Orthodox leadership.
When asked if she thinks that all Jews should live in Israel, Shaked said: “I am happy with every Jew who makes aliyah, but I don’t want to be patronizing to Jews around the world. American Jewry is definitely crucial to the existence of Israel. They are doing a lot of important things.”
“This is the home of the Jewish people, but if Jews want to live abroad, I respect it,” Shaked added.
Shaked also encouraged voters to choose the New Right, because she posited that the Likud is going to win the April 9 election.
“What the public learned [from past elections] is the bloc is what really matters, not the big party,” Shaked said. “We want to keep a right-wing government.”
As such, she argued, the New Right needs to be the second-biggest party in the coalition, as opposed to Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party.
Shaked expressed concern about US President Donald Trump’s intent to release the details of his peace plan in the coming months.
“We think [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will want to include Gantz or [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid to promote the plan,” she stated.
As for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s likely plans to hold a pre-indictment hearing for Netanyahu before the election, Shaked said “I appreciate and respect [Mandelblit] and respect his judgment and don’t want to interfere in his decision. I sleep well at night when I know that he’s the one making the decision.”
At the same time, Shaked defended Netanyahu’s criticism of Mandelblit, saying that “freedom of speech is for all people, including leaders. Our prime minister has freedom of speech and can criticize the system.”
The event in Tel Aviv was cosponsored by the Tel Aviv International Salon, Times of Israel and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.