The Israeli government has gone ahead with a request to the High Court for a six-month postponement of a ruling on conversions, which Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hopes will give the Cabinet time to formulate a compromise that will satisfy all sides.
At the annual July 4th ceremony at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Herzliya, PM Netanyahu was officially optimistic:
“I am committed, and I remain committed, to making every Jew feel at home in Israel, including at the Kotel. All we need is patience and perseverance.”
The Reform and Conservative representatives joined the state in the petition to the Court. However, United Torah Judaism and Shas refused to do so.
UTJ MK Uri Maklev said in an interview with Hamodia that Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Health Minister MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) stormed out of a meeting about the request to the High Court.
“They were angered when the prime minister tried to persuade them to sign on the request,” to which they were adamantly opposed. The meeting took place last Friday, after the Knesset Law Committee had approved a bill to restore the full authority of the Chief Rabbinate over conversions and disallowing private conversions.
Having said that, Maklev did acknowledge that the law still needs revision to make certain provisions clearer. “The issues involved are very complicated,” he noted.
Maklev disputed a media report which said that if the Court refuses to postpone its ruling and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party continues to oppose the bill, that it would precipitate a coalition crisis.
“The law does not change the status quo on religious matters,” he said. “It merely responds to a recent ruling of the judges which allowed for private conversions. As such, the coalition agreement would require all its partners to support the conversion law that is being advanced.”
UTJ MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler told Hamodia on Tuesday that if the Court insists on “dictating” a change in the status quo, as it has in other matters, such as army service, “then we will pass a law to circumvent the Court.”
When asked if they have sufficient votes for passage, Rabbi Eichler replied that they will, if it has the backing of the coalition, which wields a majority in the Knesset.
Rabbi Eichler blasted the judges of the High Court, who have for decades ruled in favor of secular and heterodox positions, as being the “most corrupt judiciary in the whole region.” He accused them of taking what he termed “legal bribes” from Reform and Conservative organizations in the form of hefty lecture fees and other emoluments.
Regarding the threat by Reform leaders to withdraw financial support for the state of Israel, he was dismissive: “The Reform organizations contribute very little to the state of Israel; what they do contribute goes to their people here for their activities.”
He was also unconcerned about the pressure on Netanyahu. While noting that “the prime minister is very close to the Reform leadership, he knows that they can’t get him elected.”
Meanwhile, Shas chairman and Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri on Monday accused Reform leaders of fomenting hatred of chareidim.
“There is a serious incitement campaign against the chareidi community and inaccurate information is being disseminated in the media,” Rabbi Deri told a Shas faction meeting. “It’s one big lie of people who want to dismantle the government.”
“There is a campaign of disinformation that we have decided to create a halachic state and take control of the Kosel. Lies,” he said.
“I heard [Defense Minister] Mr. Liberman say that he doesn’t want a halachic state, [but] we’re not changing anything here,” he said, asserting that the chareidi parties were struggling to maintain the status quo against the Reform and High Court who seek to overturn it.
Referring to one of the Reform leaders, he said: “This man doesn’t live here, and the majority of his community don’t live here and haven’t even visited the Kosel. And they want that we should give them the keys to the Law of Return?” asked Deri.
“Should I give his representatives the possibility of converting anyone they want? People who don’t see assimilation as the biggest danger to the existence of the Jewish people? They want to be responsible for the Law of Return?”
“There is no other country in the world that has a Law of Return, only the State of Israel, and the Reformists want me, as Interior Minister, to recognize their conversions for the Law of Return. That’s something that will never happen,” he declared.