Report: Livni Made Deal For Coalition Support of Conversion Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -

With only six seats in the Knesset, Tzipi Livni’s Movement party presumably carried less weight than the big coalition factions in the decision to vote together on three highly contentious bills this week—but they apparently got something out of it just the same.

Movement agreed to vote for the referendum, electoral reform and chareidi draft bills, in return for support for its own legislative favorite, a new bill to make conversion easier.

Sources in Movement and Likud explained that “Movement was unhappy that it was being forced to support three laws, each of which it had some problems with, without the party getting support for any law associated with it. That led to the agreement on promoting the conversion bill.”

The conversion reform proposals, authored by Movement MK Elazar Stern, have been stalled due to opposition from the chief rabbis and the Jewish Home party, including Deputy-Minister of Religious Affairs Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home).

A meeting held on Monday between Stern, Ben-Dahan, coalition chairman Yariv Levin, and MK Ayelet Shaked resulted in movement. The first hearing on the bill since its first reading in the Knesset plenum will now take place this coming Tuesday.

The bill, which has been vigorously opposed by the chareidi MKs, would substantially loosen requirements for conversion. It calls for increasing the number of rabbis authorized to perform conversions, allow them to work on a regional basis rather than  the current centralized format. In addition it would create some 30 new conversion courts around the country by allowing any chief municipal rabbi to establish a conversion court, along with a rabbi with qualification as a rabbinic judge, and any other person who has rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate.

The Chief Rabbinate argues such a system would allow rabbis who are inexpert in conversion matters to act without sufficient oversight.