Religious Israeli Lawmakers Vote Down Bill Allowing Local Rabbis to Carry Out Conversions

Shas party had threatened to boycott vote because of alleged racist remarks by new TV appointee, a close associate of Netanyahu's.

Rami Sadan, new board chair of Channel 10 News, left, with Shas leader and Interior Minister Arye Dery.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz, YouTube

The Knesset voted down a proposed amendment to the law on conversions, which would have allowed local rabbis to carry out conversions and made it easier to convert to Judaism.

Shas Knesset members voted against the bill, sponsored by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), after threatening not to vote with the coalition until the appointment of the new Channel 10 News board chairman Rami Sadan is canceled. Sadan, a long-time close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, was reported by Haaretz to have made disparaging remarks about Shas and its chairman, Interior Minister Aryeh Dery, as well as condescending remarks about Mizrahim, at a board meeting this week. Sadan denied it, but Channel 10 News CEO Golan Yochpaz, who was at the meeting, said the remarks were made.

The government did not officially respond to questions on the conversion bill because Religious Services Minister David Azoulay of Shas was absent from the Knesset, in response to Sadan’s comments. Instead, MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) explained the objections to the amendment, then Health Minister Yaakov Litzman spoke until a number of Shas MKs arrived to vote against the bill, which went down, 49 votes to 39.

Stern said: “We are speaking here about a national and social problem, and about preventing abuse and reducing corruption. There is a monopoly that is leading to corruption. The State of Israel, under the auspices of this coalition, has handed the keys to entry to people, some of whom oppose its existence. [Defense Minister] Avigdor Lieberman has signed on this proposal, and for years he has tried to advance this law ... Let no one say this law contradicts halakha [Jewish religious law], the opposite is true.”

Eichler said converts who do not intend to truly adopt Orthodox Judaism cannot be accepted, as it has been throughout the ages. “Ruth the Moabite was the image of a righteous convert.”