Labor chief: Israel needs to recognize Reform conversions

'We need to give the Reform a part of the Western Wall,' says Avi Gabbay, adding that Israel needs to recognize Reform conversions.

Haim Lev ,

Avi Gabbay
Avi Gabbay
Hezki Baruch

While the Labor party’s newest chief, Avi Gabbay, has expressed his interest in forming a broad-based coalition including Orthodox Jews, on Wednesday Gabbay expressed support for altering the status quo on religion and state to benefit the Reform movement, a move position which would likely make the formation of future government with haredi parties impossible.

The former Kulanu minister told Radio Kol Hai Wednesday morning that the State of Israel owes a great deal to the Reform movement in North America, and should accept its demands for a partition of the Western Wall.

“The state wouldn’t have strength if it weren’t for the Reform, and we need to give them a part of the Western Wall,” Gabbay said.

At the behest of the haredi coalition partners, the Netanyahu government recently froze a plan to expand a prayer area allotted for non-traditional, gender-mixed worship at the southern end of the Western Wall, near Robinson’s Arch.

The Reform movement, which has few members in Israel but remains influential in the United States and Canada, blasted the move, and warned of a “rift” between Israel and Diapsora Jewry.

Gabbay touched on another sensitive subject, arguing that Israel should recognize Reform conversions, another position which would likely bar religious parties from joining any future Labor coalition.

Nevertheless, Gabbay said he welcomed haredi Jews into the Labor party and any potential future Labor government, saying “We are a [political] home for haredim as well.”