UTJ Halts Coalition Talks With Likud on Conversion Rules

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party halted coalition negotiations with Likud yesterday, claiming that the Likud's coalition deal with Yisrael Beiteinu violates its monopoly over conversions.

UTJ sources threatened to remain in the opposition if Likud insisted on including certain clauses regarding conversion in its coalition deal with UTJ.

The leader of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian community, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, yesterday ordered Degel Hatorah, UTJ's Lithuanian faction, not to accept clauses regarding conversion reforms and civil marriage.

Degel Hatorah MKs met Elyashiv to discuss the state-and-religion issues that had been agreed on by Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu.

The agreement stipulates that the Chief Rabbinate could authorize city rabbis, many of them Orthodox and not ultra-Orthodox, to perform conversions.

Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu also agreed that the cabinet would advance legislation to recognize civil unions by couples considered non-Jewish.

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Shas' spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef agreed to this clause in the coalition agreement. The coalition agreement with Shas says Shas "is aware" of the clauses regarding civil marriage and conversion, and that the coalition factions are bound to them.

However, Elyashiv refused Likud's demand that these clauses be included in UTJ's coalition agreement.

Last week Elyashiv agreed to the clause enabling non-Jewish couples to marry, but stipulated that they would have to be recognized by a rabbinical court as non-Jews before being able to enter into a civil union, and that the ceremony could be held only by a non-Jewish entity.