Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Friday that he has reached a deal to delay Israel’s controversial conversion bill by six months while a government-appointed committee will examine drafting a new compromise on the issue.
“Harmony within the Jewish people is important to me,” Netanyahu said as he prepared to leave for the burial of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. “It’s important to me as the prime minister of Israel, and it’s important to me personally as a son of the Jewish people.”
As part of the deal, the Reform Jewish movement and other groups also postpone any actions with the Israeli High Court on the conversion bill and ask the court to delay any rulings on conversion for the next six months.
According to Netanyahu, “In effect, the appellants [to the High Court] and the government of Israel agree together to freeze all proceedings, to freeze the appeal to the High Court of Justice on the conversion issue, to freeze government and Knesset legislation on the conversion issue. This will also, of course, allow me to establish a team that will work for approximately six months on finding solutions for an agreed-upon arrangement on the conversion issue.”
Earlier this week, the Israeli cabinet had advanced a bill seeking to consolidate all conversions to Judaism within Israel under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate, which adheres to Orthodox standards. The bill’s critics, mainly from non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, say the legislation gives Orthodoxy an unfair monopoly on conversions.