Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held an urgent meeting early Tuesday afternoon with the Chief Rabbis, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, in order to reach understandings that would defuse the coalition crisis on the Conversion Law.
The meeting follows a vote in the Knesset's Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Monday, in favor of the Conversion Law limiting the Rabbinate's power in matters of conversion onto Judaism. The committee decided to bring the bill, which was sponsored by MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), to a final vote in the plenum.
During the meeting, the chief rabbis warned Netanyahu that they will not recognize conversions taking place under the framework of the new law, showing how the new law will make conversion more questionable and difficult, not easier as proponents of the bill have claimed.
Rabbi Lau likewise warned last month that he met with world rabbis in London, who told him that with the supervision of conversion being removed from the Chief Rabbinate, rabbis around the world will not recognize conversions taking place in Israel either.
MK Orit Struk (Jewish Home), who is a member of the Knesset committee, told Arutz Sheva that she will take action, together with the other members of the Jewish Home faction, to prevent the law from passing. “This bad law is prepared for the second and third readings and we in the Jewish Home will do everything so that the law does not pass in the plenum,” she promised.
"Unlike MK Stern, we are not used by various elements, and we listen to the rabbis of religious Zionism,” she sniped.
MK Struk estimated that the bill would not be brought to a final vote in the Knesset, and will instead be brought to the government for approval – and be revised in the process.
The resulting bill “is the least bad option,” she said. It is not something the Jewish Home would have initiated, but “under the circumstances, in which the law was advanced because coalitional promises made to us were broken, following dirty deals between Likud and Labor, there was no choice but to opt for a government decision, and the hareidim also understand that a government decision is better than this bad law.”
The vote Monday came on the heels of an urgent debate Monday morning on a decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to withdraw support for the proposed Conversion Law - a move harshly criticized by the bill's liberal backers.
The bill itself has been at the center of political wrangling and controversy, and would greatly diminish, if not eliminate, the Chief Rabbinate's control over conversion in Israel, by making it possible for local rabbinical courts to set their own criteria for conversion.
The Jewish Home Party strongly opposes the law, but originally had agreed to let it come to a first reading, despite its right (as part of a coalition agreement) to veto laws pertaining to religion and state before their presentation to the Knesset, in order to gain support for its bill against freeing terrorists in exchange agreements. The Likud had promised to prevent the Conversion Bill's coming to a final vote, but did not live up to its promise. Jewish Home's compromise suggestions did not pass.
MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), who initiated the bill, said it was “humiliating” for a person who came to Israel because his father was Jewish, to be told that he is not a Jew. That may be, but Jewish identity is matrilineal and such a person must apply for halakhic conversion to be accepted as a Jew in all sectors of Jewish society.