Will the Labor Party finally stand up for religious freedom & equality?

Labor Party Chairman: Accept Reform Conversions!

Newly elected Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay has come out strongly in favor of religious freedom on issues ranging from education, to public transportation on Shabbat, and to marriage & divorce. More recently, he's expressed support for the official state recognition of Reform conversions.

Newly elected Labor Party Chairman Avi GabbayNewly elected Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay

Avi Gabbay's aim seems to be for the Labor Party pursue these issues differently than the party has in recent years. Of course, counter-voices have arisen against Gabbay, and explicit pressure has come in from the ultra-Orthodox political parties. Just this week, Gabbay met with United Torah Judaism Chairman Health Minister Yaakov Litzman who peppered him with challenges on his positions on religion and state matters.

Hiddush polling consistently shows that the overwhelming majority of Labor / Zionist Union voters support all aspects of religious freedom and equality in Israel. In the upcoming 2017 Israel Religion & State Index, Hiddush will measure whether political support and commitment by the Labor Party for religious freedom and equality will strengthen, weaken, or make no difference in terms of the likely continued support for the party. Stay tuned for this indicator.

As Hiddush has reported in the past [link], Israel's left and center parties have been pursuing a policy of avoiding any confrontation with ultra-Orthodox parties while directing all their fire at the settlers. This is so even as the ultra-Orthodox channel huge sums to seminaries for married men, which encourages them to remain outside the workforce, and to educational institutions in which children don’t learn core subjects such as mathematics and English. This is so even as they say awful things about Reform Movement Jews. This is so even when these parties have the exclusion of women at the center of their worldview.

The policy of disengagement from issues of state and religion, espoused by Labor, Meretz and Yesh Atid, is totally opposed to the position of their voters.

The policy of disengagement from issues of state and religion, espoused by Labor, Meretz and Yesh Atid, is totally opposed to the position of their voters. Hiddush's Israel Religion & State Index in 2015 showed that 100 percent of Meretz voters, 87 percent of Zionist Union voters and 85 percent of Yesh Atid voters believe that all types of marriage should be recognized, including civil, Reform and Conservative. In addition, 86 percent of Zionist Union voters, 83 percent of Yesh Atid voters and 95 percent of Meretz voters said that they prefer a government without the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Hiddush will be reaching out to Gabbay to further discuss these issues, but it should be pointed out that repeated studies have indicated the correlation between fervent religious views and the political right (most recently in the Pew study of Israel religious views, in which most respondents who defined themselves as religious also supported the statement that Israeli Arabs should be expelled from Israel [link])

In recent years, communications between the Haredi parties and Labor were mostly used in order to jack up the Haredi parties' political demands to Likud, not as a sincere expression of willingness to join with the Left in implementing its peace and territorial policies. Therefore - it is clear to us that a strong and assertive position on the part of Gabbay on issues of religious freedom will not only better meet the preferences of his constituency and that of the majority of the Israeli public, but it would also reflect a mature and long overdue realization on the part of Labor that the Haredi parties of today are not likely to return to the long-gone partnership with the Left.

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