Netanyahu backs away from promised panel to mediate conversions dispute

The conversion decision will be left to the ex-justice minister.

Reform Movement prayer service at the Western Wall  (photo credit: Y.R)
Reform Movement prayer service at the Western Wall
(photo credit: Y.R)
The responsibility for finding a resolution to the crisis over conversion policy that erupted earlier this year lies solely with former justice minister Moshe Nissim, who will make his own recommendations without the help of any committee, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said originally that a working group would be appointed to resolve the issue.
At the end of June, a bill proposed by Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri to give the Chief Rabbinate a total 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 severely damage the legal standing of foreign conversions.
Coming in the wake of the crisis over the cancellation of the Western Wall agreement, Netanyahu managed to convince Shas and United Torah Judaism to freeze their legislation, and in return got the progressive movements to withdraw a petition to the High Court of Justice that seemed likely to afford their conversions heightened legal status.
“This obviously allows me to establish a team which will work for six months and find solutions for consensus agreement on the issue of conversion,” said Netanyahu at the time.
Despite the complexity of the problem and the short time-frame given to resolve it, Nissim told the Post last week that he would begin working on the issue “in the coming days.”
He said that he was appointed by Netanyahu and that no representatives from the various interested groups are involved in making the recommendations.
Nissim refused to say with whom he was consulting to draft his recommendations.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Nissim alone will be proposing a solution, without the help of a committee.
President and CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism Rabbi Gilad Kariv said the way the issue was being handled demonstrated a lack of desire by the government to enter into a dialogue on such issues.
“The government announced the establishment of a committee but we haven’t been approached by Nissim, the Justice Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office,” Kariv said. “It’s a bad sign that the government isn’t trying to find a compromise here.”