15 judges cannot decide the question of who is a Jew'

Smotrich calls for Conversion Law, establishing basic standards for conversion and overriding Supreme Court's decision to recognize Reform conversions.

MK Bezalel Smotrich ,

A woman converts to Judaism in front of a rabbinic court in Jerusalem
A woman converts to Judaism in front of a rabbinic court in Jerusalem

This evening is not so good, following the decision handed down today by the High Court of Justice which in effect recognizes the validity of Reform conversions for the first time since the establishment of the State.

One who wishes to enter the gates of the Jewish nation must convert according to Jewish law, the Halacha. This principle was agreed upon as part of the Status Quo in order to preserve the unity of the Nation—so that the Nation of Israel will remain one nation not only today but for future generations; so that Jewish grandchildren and great grandchildren can marry each other without the need to produce detailed family histories.

The ruling is completely scandalous, since the High Court has no authority to address the underlying issue. No one has authorized the High Court to rule on questions of basic values which go to the heart of the identity of the State of Israel. In a democracy, the debate over controversial values should be conducted in a democratic manner.

Time after time, the High Court of Justice has ridden roughshod over the Knesset and the Government, and even over the people, deciding on matters which go literally to the heart of our existence. Decisions on basic values are acceptable after we debate and then decide as in a democracy. These decisions should not be made by 15 judges who crudely ride over the Knesset, the Government and the sovereignty of the people, and repeatedly damage the Jewish identity of the State.

The solution is to enact a Law of Governmental Conversion which provides that the State of Israel will recognize only governmental conversions. During the past year, there were signs that this decision was already written, and that the Court was only awaiting the proper timing to publish it. I do not negate the possibility that the High Court looked at the election polls, and heard of right wing parties which do not intend to join a right wing government, but rather to join a left wing government, and then it was calm. And thus the High Court could allow itself to overrule a principle which has been agreed upon for 72 years, because it foresees that it will have immunity within the next government.

In order for the Knesset to enact a Law of Government Conversion, and in order to close this breach of agreed upon principles as the High Court did today, we must have a government composed of parties from the National camp, those which are committed to preserving the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, and which have the courage not to be populists. This cannot be done with Yair Lapid, or Avigdor Liberman, Meirav Michaeli, or Nitzan Horowitz.

Whoever thought that it would be possible to put aside our values, and deal only with Corona received a very painful reminder why this approach is not realistic. The High Court does not take a vacation nor do the government prosecutors. We face an existential challenge to those who hold dear the importance of preserving the future of the Jewish people. It cannot be that having survived 2000 years, and living now in the land of Israel in the State of the Jewish people which is renewing itself, we will now descend into assimilation, and damage the Jewish majority and the unity of the nation.

Bezalel Smotrich is a Member of Knesset, chairman of the Religious Zionist Party, and former Transportation Minister of Israel.