Ultra-Orthodox Pressure Lieberman to Yield on Conversion Reform

United Torah Judaism chair met with Yisrael Beiteinu chief in Jerusalem.

United Torah Judaism chairman Ya'akov Litzman met on Monday evening with Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem in a bid to persuade the Yisrael Beiteinu chief to soften his stance on conversions so as to enable the Haredi faction to enter the coalition.

In coalition talks with the Likud, Lieberman's party was able to extract concessions on reforms in the conversion process. Yet these clauses in the agreement were deemed unacceptable by the spiritual head of UTJ, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, thus leading to an impasse in coalition talks with the Likud.

Members of Knesset from Degel Hatorah, the Lithuanian faction that comprises UTJ, met on Monday with Elyashiv to consult with him on the aspects of the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition agreement touching upon issues of religion and state.

The agreement stipulates that the chief rabbinate would be authorized to allow the rabbis of municipalities to oversee conversions, thus rendering the entire country as "one area designated for conversions."

While the clause is subject to approval by the chief rabbinical council, it is significant in that it would represent a crack in the Haredi monopoly over conversions. Thus anyone may undergo conversion supervised by an Orthodox rabbi from the religious Zionist stream.