Deal Sought on Conversion Bill to Defuse Coalition Crisis

YERUSHALAYIM -

The coalition crisis surrounding the conversion bill has apparently been defused through a deal reached between Jewish Home and Tzipi Livni’s Movement parties, Arutz Sheva reports.

According to the agreement, Jewish Home will return to supporting the coalition agenda in return for advancement of an alternative conversion bill authored by Deputy Religions Minister Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home) at the beginning of the Knesset spring session.

If, in the interim, no compromise can be reached on the text of the bill which sparked the crisis, authored by MK Elazar Stern (Movement), Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will decide which of the two versions will have coalition backing.

Meanwhile, Stern’s version has been subjected to scathing criticism not only by chareidi Rabbanim, but also by both of Israel’s chief rabbis, as well as rabbis of the national-religious sector which Jewish Home represents. They have warned that the bill will open the gates for non-halachic conversion.

Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a senior national-religious figure, joined in denouncing Stern’s proposal in the strongest terms. Noting that the bill was drawn up without consultation with halachic authorities, he characterized it as “a joke…not worth the paper itwritten on.”

Rabbi Druckman said further that the Knesset could not pass any law concerning halachic matters without the agreement of the Chief Rabbinate (which has strongly opposed the bill and called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to withdraw it), and that this is “something which should be understood regardless of any coalition agreements.”

Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan and a leading posek in the national religious community,  said that “the chief purpose of the bill is to open up the gates of conversion to liberal and possibly Reform converts. It is the worst possible bill, which would lead to anarchy” in the conversion process.

MK Motti Yogev (Jewish Home) asked Stern to reconsider and cooperate with the Chief Rabbis on revising the bill.

“The Jewish Home, headed by Minister Naftali Bennett and his deputy, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, asked you to coordinate your bill’s wording with them and with the Chief Rabbinate — or they will propose a governmental bill that will be coordinated with the Chief Rabbinate,” Yogev told Stern. “MK Stern, cooperate and your deeds will be viewed favorably.”

“In your actions to legislate the Conversion Bill today — an action that refuses to cooperate and coordinate with the Chief Rabbinate at all, as regards the wording of the bill, which is bound up with halachah and with the concern for the unity of the Jewish people — you are endangering the unity of the people,” Yogev warned.

“Independent courts will lead us to a situation in which one court converts and the other disqualifies,” he predicted. “They will lead us to a situation in which conversions are not recognized.” The MK explained that if some conversions are not recognized by all Jews, people will start conducting their own genealogical databases to determine who is a Jew and who isn’t — “and we will be two nations in one country.”