Lieberman Tells Associates: No IDF Conversion Bill, No State Budget

Controversial bill threatens to damage Netanyahu's delicate relations with the Haredi parties in his government.

Yisrael Beiteinu is planning on conditioning its support for the budget on the progress of a draft bill recognizing conversions in the Israel Defense Forces, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has reportedly told associates recently.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Archive / Tess Scheflan

Lieberman said that if the bill, which passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset about 10 days ago, was not moved ahead to the Constitution Law and Justice Committee - which his party controls - the faction would not approve the budget.

Political figures said yesterday that if Lieberman made good on the threat, it would force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to find a solution before the budget comes to a vote in a few days.

Last week coalition Knesset members warned that the coalition would bury the conversion bill, which would give the Israel Defense Forces chief rabbi final say on conversions to Judaism carried out in the IDF, without the approval of the Chief Rabbinate. The bill has threatened to damage Netanyahu's delicate relations with the Haredi parties in his government.

Three committees are "vying" to discuss the bill. If it goes to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chaired by the bill's initiator MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), it will move through quickly. If it goes to the Interior Committee, chaired by Shas, the law will wither. The third committee that might receive the bill for discussion is the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, chaired by Kadima member Shaul Mofaz.

Yesterday it emerged that the House Committee, which determines which committee gets the bill, does not intend to decide the matter in the coming week.

Figures in Yisrael Beiteinu were reportedly surprised yesterday to discover that the bill did not even appear on the House Committee agenda, which they said was an attempt to stymie the bill's passage.

The bill almost split the coalition last week, when Shas and United Torah Judaism voiced their strong opposition to the bill. The members of the coalition were given freedom to vote their conscience, and except for the Haredi factions, most lawmakers voted for the bill, including Netanyahu.