UTJ puts off decision on joining Netanyahu government

Leadership concerned about certain issues in coalition agreement between Likud and Israel Beiteinu.

Litzman 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Litzman 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
United Torah Judaism's rabbinic leadership canceled a pivotal meeting slated for Tuesday evening that was to discuss the party's entrance into the government being formed by the Likud. "Apparently the Likud is taking its time and is in no hurry to form a coalition, so we decided to cancel the meeting," a spokesman for MK Uri Maklev (UTJ) said. MK Meir Porush (UTJ) said that his party was interested in forming a broad coalition. "If by taking more time the Likud can convince additional parties to enter the coalition that is a positive thing," he said. UTJ's rabbinic leadership is concerned about two issues addressed in the coalition agreement reached between the Likud and Israel Beiteinu: reforms in the conversion process and the introduction of civil unions for Israelis who are not Jewish. According to the coalition agreement, Israelis who are not defined as Jewish according to Orthodox criteria will be allowed to form civil unions. Presently, Israelis who have no religious definition are unable to marry here. There are tens of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who arrived under the Law of Return but who are not Jewish according to Orthodox criteria. Many of them voted for Israel Beiteinu. Also, according to the coalition agreement a special committee will be set up within 60 days of the creation of the next government to find solutions within the framework of the Halacha for Israelis who are presently unable to marry. The second issue is proposed conversion reforms. Israel Beiteinu and the Likud agreed that in addition to Conversion Authority rabbis, local rabbis would be allowed to convert non-Jewish Israelis to Judaism. Israel Beiteinu hopes that by widening the circle of rabbis permitted to perform conversions, prospective converts will find it easier to convert. In addition, steps will be taken to make it more difficult to annul conversions once they are completed, and the rabbi who performs a conversion will be allowed to preside over the marriage of the convert. Another proposal is to do away with territorial restrictions regarding conversions. Currently, conversion courts are permitted to convert only within their regional jurisdiction. In theory, a more lenient conversion judge would be allowed to convert not only citizens living in his area but also those living eleswhere.