Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given in to haredi pressure and tabled the Stern Bill that would have decentralized conversions to Judaism, taking them out of the exclusive province of the haredi-controlled chief rabbinate.
Above: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Tables Conversion Reform Bill To Please Haredim
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given in to haredi pressure and tabled the Stern Bill that would have decentralized conversions to Judaism, taking them out of the exclusive province of the haredi-controlled chief rabbinate and into the control of the chief rabbis of towns and cities.
Although many of those rabbis are also haredi, some of them are moderate Zionist Orthodox. The prospect of moderate Zionist Orthodox rabbis handling conversions angers haredim, who follow the strictest interpretations of halakha (Jewish law) and customs and who oppose any modernity.
Netanyahu made the decision to table the conversion bill after receiving a letter from haredi Sefardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef written on behalf of himself and haredi Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau asking him to do so, Yeshiva World reported.
The bill was sponsored by Member of Knesset Elazar Stern of the centrist secular Hatnua Party, a member of Netanyahu’s coalition. And the bill was also backed by many members of the centrist and largely secular Yesh Atid Party, which is also a coalition member. Netanyahu blocked Yesh Atid’s Zero VAT Bill, primarily meant to give IDF veterans a tax break on new home purchases, claiming it would cost too much to implement. That bill was vehemently opposed by haredim, who would have been cut out of most of the tax breaks because they refuse to serve in the IDF or perform national civilian service.
Many observers believe Netanyahu’s real reason for blocking the two bills is to force Yesh Atid and Hatnua out of the governing coalition so he can replace them with the two haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, which are Netanyahu’s Likud Party’s only natural Knesset allies.