Netanyahu freezes Conversion Law for six months

Prime Minister says implementation of Conversion Bill will be frozen until a team appointed by him formulates recommendations.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff ,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Friday afternoon that the implementation of the Conversion Law, which the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved this week, will be frozen for six months.

During that time, a team appointed by the Prime Minister will formulate recommendations on the issue.

“The Government of Israel and the appellants have decided to contact the High Court of Justice and request a stay on its decision on the conversion issue in order to allow six months for the team that will be appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to formulate recommendations for an arrangement on this issue,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

“The Prime Minister has directed that legislation on the matter not be advanced until the aforesaid recommendations are made. Should the High Court of Justice reject the request, the Government will be obliged to act in accordance with the coalition agreements,” it added.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided that the full Cabinet will debate the appeal that has been submitted.”

Netanyahu’s statement came hours after Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) stormed out of a meeting of coalition leaders after it became clear that Netanyahu wanted to reach compromises in the coalition over the Conversion Law.

Netanyahu and the heads of the parties discussed the possibility of freezing the conversion law and not advancing it in the Knesset following the criticism voiced against it by the Reform movement and certain liberal religious Zionist groups within Israel.

The law would centralize authority over conversions under the Chief Rabbinate and ban all private conversions in Israel. Among those opposed to the law is the Yisrael Beytenu party, which appealed against soon after it was approved by the Ministerial Committee.

The Jewish Agency welcomed Netanyahu’s announcement on Friday afternoon.

“The Jewish Agency for Israel welcomes the Prime Minister's announcement that the intensive talks and concerted effort on the part of a number of ministers and other partners to resolve the crisis surrounding conversion have borne fruit,” it said in a statement.

“This effort, conducted in a spirit of understanding and a desire to reach a compromise, provides all parties of interest with a period of six months to reach a solution. We hope that the task force appointed by the Prime Minister will reach a conclusion that strengthens the unity of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora.”

“The Jewish Agency also sincerely hopes that the spirit seen over the last two days will lead to the resolution of the issues surrounding the Western Wall, as provided by the agreement previously reached by all concerned,” the statement concluded.

Diaspora Affairs Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett welcomed the announcement as well, stressing its importance for Jewish unity.

"The compromise around the conversion bill creates dialogue between Israel and Diaspora," said Bennett. "Together we will ensure Israel remains the homeland of the entire Jewish People."

"Conversation is the key to Jewish unity, and close relations with U.S. Jews are a strategic asset of Israel," Bennett added. "Over the past week I spoke with many Israeli and Diaspora leaders, and am pleased to have found common ground. I want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu and all the parties involved for their part in ending the crisis."

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)