Interior Minister Aryeh Deri
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri Yehonatan Waltzer/TPS

On Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court announced that it was rejecting the government’s request to receive an additional extension to the time period allotted to it to regulate the state’s laws governing conversions.

In its decision, the Court noted that: “Petitions on this issue have been pending for many years, with most having been submitted 15 years ago. A conditional ruling was handed down four and a half years ago, and the most recent case related to the issue was held on May 16, 2017.

“In our ruling that was handed down on August 19, 2020, we went beyond the letter of the law accommodating the request of the government to postpone a final ruling on the issue, in order to enable the government meanwhile to find a solution that would make a Court ruling on the matter superfluous. We even added to the extension given, as the legislative processes were ongoing and we hoped that further requests for an extension would not be submitted.

“However, following an in-depth study of the issue and the responses of the petitioners, we do not consider it appropriate to grant another extension for enacting this legislation. Needless to say, if progress is being made on the issue until the pre-existing deadline, it will still be possible to submit appropriate updates,” the Court added.

This Court response refers to a long string of petitions submitted to the Court between 2005 and 2008, asking the government to recognize Reform and Conservative conversions conducted in Israel for the purpose of registering the “converts” as Jewish in the Population Registry.

Responding to the Court’s decision, Shas party head and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri stated: “Out of a deep sense of responsibility and a State-guided vision that perceives the danger of any conversion law that threatens to divide the Jewish People and also trample on the Law of Return, I promoted a state legal memorandum for conversions within the State of Israel three years ago. Due to the protracted political crisis in the country – the most severe in the history of the State – the legislative process on this issue has not yet reached completion.

“At the same time, I have not remained inactive, and I also instructed MK Arbel to present a private member’s bill on this issue, along the lines of the specific proposal that I had already presented, with the support of the Prime Minister. “

Deri noted that, “The issue of conversion has potential consequences for the identity of the State itself, and it must be settled by the Knesset and the Knesset alone. A legal ruling on this matter that ignores legislative process – process that has already begun – could lead to a rift among the Jewish People.”

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