Jewish Conversion Bill Returns to Knesset After PM’s Change of Mind

The bill would give municipal rabbis the power to set up conversion courts and widen the choice available to prospective converts to Judaism in Israel.

Daniel Bar-On

The Yisrael Beiteinu party is lending its support to the Hatnuah party’s conversion bill, which would give municipal rabbis the power to set up conversion courts and widen the choice available to prospective converts to Judaism in Israel.

It was announced Thursday that the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will hold a hearing on Hatnuah’s conversion bill on Monday, the first day of the Knesset’s winter session, unless further disagreements surface before then. It is expected to vote on referring the legislation to the plenum for its enactment into law.

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman has reached agreement with Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to expedite passage of the bill in the committee, which is chaired by a member of Lieberman’s party.

The committee approved the bill for second and third readings in the plenum last March, but a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it be transformed into a policy decision that would be decided by the cabinet, rather than as Knesset legislation, put it on hold.

Netanyahu informed Livni, who is also justice minister, at the beginning of this week that he had reconsidered his support for putting it to the cabinet, due to pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties, which are in the parliamentary opposition, as well as from Habayit Hayehudi, a coalition partner.

Livni undertook to again push for passage of the bill as Knesset legislation, with the support of Yisrael Beiteinu and Yesh Atid.

Next week’s committee meeting was scheduled in response to a request by the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, as well as by Habayit Hayehudi for reconsideration of the March vote. The parties also asked for reconsideration of reservations that were submitted regarding the bill.