Schneller proposes compromise on conversion debate

Kadima MK suggests “cease-fire” in effort to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

Otniel Schneller 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Otniel Schneller 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As haredi supporters of the conversion bill sponsored by MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) upped the ante on Sunday by threatening a coalition split if the measure is not brought to a vote this week, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) proposed a “cease-fire” in an effort to bring both sides to the negotiating table.
Schneller, a veteran legislator with a track record in reaching compromise agreements with the religious establishment, called on both sides to adopt his proposal for a return to negotiations.
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Schneller said that on one hand, the bill’s supporters must allow Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to freeze progress on the bill in order to give those opposing the legislation time to negotiate possible adjustments with Rotem and his haredi allies.
On the other hand, said Schneller, the Reform and Conservative movements must agree to freeze their High Court of Justice petitions challenging the Chief Rabbinate’s authority over Israeli conversions.
Schneller explained that sense of urgency on the part of the haredi parties’ to pass the bill stems largely from concerns that the High Court will rule on the subject of conversions before the bill passes, rendering the bill useless in their eyes. If the non-Orthodox streams were to freeze their court petitions due to ongoing talks, the haredim would likely be more receptive to talking it out further.
“I am making great efforts to try and prevent a tear in the Jewish people,” Schneller said. “I find it incomprehensible to what degree politicians on both sides have taken stubborn stances upon which they are unwilling to compromise. I don’t think the sides are that far apart regarding the law itself, but it has become a question of egos.”
Schneller said that he had proposed his compromise to spiritual leaders on both sides, and that “significant representatives of both sides had shown a certain willingness for flexibility.
“I did not, however, see the same flexibility among the politicians on either side,” the Kadima MK said.
He admitted that he was a newcomer to the fight over the bill – he decided to try to intervene and find a middle ground after he “realized the degree of polarization after the bill was approved in the Law Committee last week.
“It is strangely fitting that this is all happening on the week of Tisha Be’av. This is exactly Tisha Be’av – there is no other explanation for Tisha Be’av. When we talk about hatred of others, about factionalism and sectarianism dividing the Jewish people, and leading to their downfall, this is exactly what we are seeing here,” Schneller concluded.