Regev Responds

No Chance Whatsoever to Reach a Mutually Agreed Upon Solution

A Four-Way Circus – the Conversion Battle

By Monday, the State Attorney’s Office is required to update the Supreme Court as to where the government is with regard to the “Who is a Jew?” issue in the context of a number of pending cases that have been before the Supreme Court for many years.

Conversion Court in SessionConversion Court in Session

By Monday, the State Attorney’s Office is required to update the Supreme Court as to where the government is with regard to the “Who is a Jew?” issue in the context of a number of pending cases that have been before the Supreme Court for many years. After receiving the State’s update, the Court will have to decide how to pursue the matter, given that some of the pending petitions have been lingering since 2005, and the legal resolution has been repeatedly postponed, usually at the initiative of the Prime Minister (who fully understands the explosive potential contained in these “Who is a Jew?” battles). He prefers to confront this by seeking endless postponements, knowing that there is no chance whatsoever to reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which would be acceptable to his Haredi parties, as well as to Diaspora Jewish leadership, particularly in the USA.

What has transpired in the last couple weeks can be described as a four-way circus, judging by the sense of urgency and the pressure reflected in the Haredi and the Zionist ultra-Orthodox media. Some of the accounts are based on a misunderstanding, as if the Supreme Court is about to rule on these petitions next week. Therefore, it is essential to preempt the anticipated rulings, which all parties assume will be in favor of recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions. The issue at hand goes beyond registration as Jewish in the population registry, but -rather- for the purpose of recognition for the Law of Return (referring to conversions conducted in Israel because the Supreme Court ruled on overseas conversions many years ago).

What is expected next week is not a final ruling, but -rather- a reply from the State to the Court’s instruction that it be updated on the status of the intended “Who is a Jew” legislation and the government’s position on this every six months, for a number of years ago the State maintained that the Knesset was about to pass a law to regulate performing conversions in Israel. Since then, they have repeatedly requested that the Court postpone further deliberations and making a decision. Fortunately, political stalemate has thus far prevented advancing discriminatory legislation, as demanded by the Haredi parties. Last time the Chief Justice made it clear that she expects that no further delay motions be submitted.

Even as the State filing is required by Monday, as of today there is no telling what the update will hold. As we have alluded to above in the title, this is about a four-way circus… and that makes it difficult to anticipate what the State will claim, and what the Court is going to do. We assume that in spite of the negative position expressed by the Chief Justice regarding further delay requests, that is exactly what the State Attorney’s Office is going to request, and one can only hope that the Court will finally put an end to this political tactic and rule on these important petitions, which have been on the docket for over 15 years.

This state of affairs has resulted in Blue & White having no interest in facilitating legislation on religious matters, which the Haredi parties are demanding, and it deflects the pressures of the Haredi parties in that direction.

We refer to what has transpired over the course of these last two weeks as a circus because the religious parties don’t seem to be reaching an agreement even among themselves, as to the path they want to follow in fighting the conversion war. Even if they were able to reach an agreement as to the four relevant options, which were raised to ensure Orthodox hegemony – they also confront a high wall in the form of the Blue & White – Likud confrontation. Blue & White is angry at the Haredi parties, which are not siding with them in pressuring Netanyahu to meet his obligations in the coalition agreement.

This state of affairs has resulted in Blue & White having no interest in facilitating legislation on religious matters, which the Haredi parties are demanding, and it deflects the pressures of the Haredi parties in that direction. It should also be emphasized that even as to the merits of the issue, there is no obligation of Blue & White to support any religious legislation, other than on the matter of the military conscription of yeshiva students, and even on that matter Minister Benny Gantz is delaying legislation, in spire of his awareness that the sand clock of pending legal process before the Supreme Court is running out.

The following are examples of what is being published now in the Haredi media and recent days’ pronouncements of the Haredi parties, Yamina MKs, and Chief Rabbi Lau. They speak for themselves and demonstrate that the issues are at a high boiling point, and the inevitable explosion, which is anticipated in the near future:

  • “13 days until the ruling of the Supreme Court regarding the conversion mechanism in Israel. The three outlines presented by Rabbi Amar, Minister Deri, and the former Minister Moshe Nissim are not being advanced to the point of legislation, and the Haredi factions express concern that the Supreme Court Justices will legitimize Reform conversion in Israel. United Torah Judaism is considering a fourth outline.”
  • “The Haredi parties’ concern is rising that Netanyahu, who even in normal times maintains strong ties with the Reform communities overseas, will further fear the expected entry into the White House of President Elect Biden, accompanied by the infamous Reform band remembered from the Obama era; and the message that would be transmitted from the government to the Supreme Court will forgo change of legislation and leave the matter to the decision of the ‘liberal’ Justices.”
  • “Shas has initiated, as a defensive move, a bill to reject any conversion process not carried out through the governmental mechanism. But aside from the Prime Minister, who could not support such a bill and risk his trans-oceanic relationships, United Torah Judaism also opposed this bill for an entirely different reason – it is likely to also undermine the network of private [Haredi] rabbinical courts. Also, they fear relying fully upon the governmental mechanism, looking ahead and foresee that the Haredi hold on the Chief Rabbinate is not assured forever and ever.”
  • “The Haredi parties are very angry at Blue & White after it refused to advance a governmental conversion bill, in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling on the matter… elements in Shas have recently turned to Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and Chair of the Knesset Committee MK Eitan Ginsburg of Blue & White, asking them to allow for a conversion bill they sponsored to pass a preliminary reading alone in order to show the Supreme Court that the Knesset has begun a regulatory process for conversion and thereby possible prevent the Supreme Court ruling, which is anticipated to soon come down regarding recognition of conversions that are conducted outside the framework of the governmental conversion mechanism. However, Blue & White did not heed their request. Haredi circles fear that at the end of the month the Supreme Court will announce its decision on the petitions involving conversion and recognize Reform and Conservative conversions.”
  • MK Betzalel Smotrich (Yamina): “For too long, the state has been dragging its feet and has not anchored governmental conversion [in law]. We have come to a moment of truth. If by the end of the month, the government does not notify the Supreme Court that it will do so, the Supreme Court will, with high likelihood, recognize Reform conversions; and this will be a catastrophe for generations to come. The responsibility for this lies on Deri, Litzman, and Gafni who are sitting in the government that needs to make the decision.” AND: “These very days we are in the midst of an all-out attack by the Supreme Court against the continuity of the Jewish people and its sanctity.”
  • MK Matan Kahana (Yamina): “Conversion in Israel needs a serious solution in the form of ‘the Nissim Law’, since any other solution will lead us to old problems and new troubles… the government of Israel prefers to bury its head in the sand and not face the challenge of this acute matter. It’s time to put on the gloves and address it thoroughly.”
  • Chief Rabbi David Lau in an address to the Conference of European Rabbis: “The current proposed conversion outline (‘The Nissim Law’) is dangerous to the Jewish people and bears severe destructive consequences. It should therefore be firmly opposed.”
  • Former Minister of Justice Moshe Nissim: “Whoever says that my proposed law contradicts Halakha has not read the report. He is ignorant boar, whoever that person may be. Let them say what and why. They wrote libel against me, the Chief Rabbis.”
  • Deputy Minister Rabbi Maklev (United Torah Judaism): “The position of United Torah Judaism is determined, consistent, and will not change in any way, so there will be no agreement to any compromise, which would grant legitimacy to conversion that are not in accordance with Halakha… the Nissim outline is full of significant holes, which we cannot compromise on, and it is in complete deviation from the position of the Great Sages of Israel… The Supreme Court wants to hold that the State should recognize Reform conversions, and we are not going to be a party to that. We don’t work for the Supreme Court, and we cannot compromise in any fashion… we don’t live in the shadow of the Supreme Court, nor do we follow its light. We will not act according to what it decides, but only according to what our rabbis instruct us.”

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