This is what Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu want to change on religion and state

Yamina’s coalition agreement with Yesh Atid mentions reforms to the system for Jewish conversion, the provision of kashrut services, and the method of electing the chief rabbis.

Avigdor Lieberman, former Israeli Defence Minister and head of Yisrael Beytenu party speaks during a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel May 30, 2019 (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Avigdor Lieberman, former Israeli Defence Minister and head of Yisrael Beytenu party speaks during a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel May 30, 2019
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Draft coalition agreements between Yesh Atid and Yamina and Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu indicate that reforms to key matters of religion and state will be on the agenda of the putative government that looks likely to be sworn in soon.
Yamina’s coalition agreement with Yesh Atid mentions reforms to the system for Jewish conversion, the provision of kashrut (Kosher) services, and the method of electing the chief rabbis.
Yisrael Beytenu’s agreement with Yesh Atid also mentions reforms to kashrut and conversion, but addresses a far greater range of religion and state issues, including stipulations regarding civil marriage, the Western Wall prayer access agreement, the ultra-Orthodox education system, and commerce and public transportation on Shabbat.
But the Yamina-Yesh Atid agreement also states explicitly that no reforms will be enacted to the current status quo on religion and state issues unless there is agreement within the coalition to make such changes.
And critically, the coalition agreement between Yamina and Yesh Atid states explicitly that all parties to the coalition will be beholden to that agreement, and that if the coalition agreements between Yesh Atid and other parties contradict the Yamina agreement, the Yamina agreement will take precedence.
Essentially, this means that the desired religion and state reforms of Yisrael Beytenu, and those of the left-wing and liberal coalition partners, will not come to fruition unless Yamina agrees to them.
Yamina’s coalition agreement with Yesh Atid makes four main proposals for change on religion and state matters.
On conversion, the agreement stipulates that the incoming religious services minister, which will likely be Yamina MK Matan Kahana, will advance legislation to allow municipal chief rabbis to perform conversions.
This is an explosive proposal which generated intense opposition from chief rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, as well as the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas parties back in 2014 when MK Elazar Stern advanced such legislation.
The legislation would decentralize control over conversion and significantly curtail the influence of the chief rabbis over the process.
Critically, it would allow liberally inclined municipal chief rabbis to implement policies such as the conversion of minors, and to utilize more lenient criteria for conversion in general, which the ultra-Orthodox establishment vehemently opposes.
This proposal is the same as the conversion reforms stipulated by Yisrael Beytenu in its agreement with Yesh Atid, so there would appear to be internal coalition consensus on this issue, in theory.
Yamina’s agreement also states that the incoming religious services minister will advance legislation to create competition within the kashrut supervision market, and unify standards.
Such legislation would remove the legal monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate over kashrut supervision, in particular the ability of businesses under independent kashrut supervision to declare themselves in writing to be kosher, something forbidden under current law.
The agreement adds that legislation would be advanced to change the make-up of the electoral body that elects chief rabbis, with the specific goal of electing “a Zionist chief rabbi,” that is, not an ultra-Orthodox one.
Currently, both chief rabbis hail from the ultra-Orthodox community and the language of Yamina’s coalition agreement indicates that the legislative changes would be designed to elect at least one religious-Zionist rabbi.
Finally, Yamina’s agreement stipulates changes to the Selection Committee for Rabbinical Judges.
It states that the chairman of the committee will be the religious services minister, which would give Kahana significant authority in the selection process.
In addition, it would ensure that two female MKs serve on the committee, one from Yamina and another from a different coalition party.
Legislation will also be passed to ensure that two of the four ministers and coalition MKs on the committee are women to increase gender parity on the highly sensitive panel.
In line with Yisrael Beytenu’s heavy focus on religion and state issues, as well as its focus on changing the state’s relationship with the ultra-Orthodox, its agreement with Yesh Atid includes several other pressing matters pertaining to religious life in Israel.
Yisrael Beytenu’s agreement stipulates that the coalition sees “as a national goal the teaching of core curriculum subjects for all Israeli pupils.”
This is a reference to the fact that the majority of ultra-Orthodox boys do not learn core curriculum subjects such as Mathematics, science, computer studies or English in elementary school, along with the overwhelming majority of ultra-Orthodox boys during their high-school years.
This is a key issue for Yisrael Beytenu as it seeks to reduce state subsidies to the ultra-Orthodox sector which is beset by poverty, largely due to the low participation rate of men from the sector in the workforce.
The ultra-Orthodox political and rabbinic leadership is fiercely opposed to any intervention in its education system, and any efforts to enforce the teaching of core curriculum subjects could result in protests and societal tension.
In addition, Yisrael Beytenu’s agreement requires that legislation be passed allowing for civil unions, a form of civil marriage, in Israel for couples who currently cannot marry in the country.
This would allow tens of thousands of Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to Jewish law to marry in Israel, as well as homosexual couples, and couples who the Chief Rabbinate will not marry for various reasons of Jewish law.
Although civil marriages performed abroad are recognized by the Interior Ministry, the ultra-orthodox parties will continue to oppose the institution of civil unions or civil marriage in Israel should this legislation be advanced.
Yisrael Beytenu’s agreement with Yesh Atid also states that the two sides commit to allow public transportation on Shabbat, something which is currently banned by law in most of the country, and to give local municipal authorities the right to increase commercial activity, especially shopping, on Shabbat, something which is currently under the authority of the Interior Ministry.
The secular population chafes at this state of affairs, while the ultra-Orthodox parties have insisted that preventing public transportation and increased commerce on Shabbat preserves the Jewish character of the state.
Yisrael Beytenu also insisted in its coalition deal that the Western Wall agreement of 2016 be implemented.
The agreement would have created a government recognized prayer section for progressive Jewish worship at the Western Wall, vastly upgraded the current site and given Reform and Conservative representatives a place on the new site’s governing committee.
Although the ultra-Orthodox parties initially agreed to this arrangement, internal pressure within the community led them to backtrack and they forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to indefinitely suspend the agreement in 2017.