Israel Beiteinu bills on conversion, civil union up for vote

Both measures are sponsored by MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), who is conveniently the chairman of the Knesset Law Committee.

With the clock counting down to the one-year anniversary of the government’s formation on March 31, coalition partner Israel Beiteinu will gear up on Sunday for a busy week advancing two key bills, including part of their coalition agreement with the Likud.
Both the Civil Unions Bill and the Conversions Bill are slated to advance quickly in the Knesset this week. Both measures are sponsored by MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), who is conveniently the chairman of the Knesset Law Committee – the key gateway through which both bills must pass en route to the house floor.
During a press conference on Thursday, Israel Beiteinu lawmakers emphasized that the party had committed to solving voters’ problems regarding both issues during their elections campaign, and reiterated that they intended to live up to the promise.
“On Monday, we will begin to advance with the second reading and the preparation for the third [final] reading of the Civil Union Bill,” Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said during the press conference.
“This is the first time it is possible to say that we have made a breakthrough. We reached an agreement with [Sephardic Chief Rabbi] Shlomo Amar and [Shas spiritual leader Rabbi] Ovadia Yosef on the issue, but it was clear that these were complex issues,” Lieberman said.
According to the coalition agreement signed a year ago, Israel Beiteinu’s legislation on civil union is to be passed in two phases. The first step – for which the agreement set a deadline of one year after the government’s formation – would permit civil union for those Israelis who are identified as “having no religion.”
To do so, the bill sponsored by Rotem must reach the Knesset floor for its final vote by the time the Pessah recess begins on March 17.
The second step seeks a wider solution that would help a far greater number of Israelis, but that stage will be legislated at the earliest during the relatively brief summer session.
The current, more limited, bill is scheduled to make its second appearance of the week on Tuesday, in Rotem’s committee, which is expected to pass it forward to its third and final reading on the Knesset floor.
The second, broader bill, an Israel Beiteinu official said, was also grounded in the coalition agreement, and was filed in the Knesset on the first day of the 18th Knesset almost a year ago. “Israel Beiteinu will work with all the means at our disposal in order to pass it in the plenum,” the official said.
The Conversions Bill will also reach Rotem’s panel, on Monday, a day before the Civil Unions Bill, and he intends to push the bill though its first committee reading prior to its first vote on the Knesset floor, which would technically be possible as early as Tuesday afternoon. That bill, which critics fear would centralize conversion power in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate, would allow municipal rabbis to carry out conversions, and would also ensure that past conversions not be retroactively reversed.
“Israel Beiteinu committed to advance these laws, and I am proud to say that we have made history. For the first time in the existence of the State of Israel, we have reached a wide agreement with Shas leaders about both the Conversions Bill and the Civil Union Bill,” Rotem said. “The negotiations continued at great length and both sides invested great effort to reach an agreement.”
Rotem dismissedclaims that Israel Beiteinu had failed to live up to its electionpromises in failing to institute a more inclusive civil union bill.
“Those groups support an all-or-nothing perspective, and thus in 62years of Israel’s existence they have not succeeded in reaching anybreakthrough. Israel Beiteinu believes we must advance in stages inorder to break through barriers, and then to continue forward,” he said.