(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had reached a deal with haredi coalition partners on the future of conversions to Judaism in Israel.
The deal entails preserving the current status quo on conversion in Israel for six months, with parties working for and against state recognition for conversions without Orthodox approval suspending their judiciary and legislative efforts for that period, Netanyahu said in a statement Friday.
Haredi parties in Israel are promoting legislation in Israel’s Knesset, the parliament, that, if passed, would grant the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly on conversion and would preempt judicial intervention by stating that Israeli law does not recognize Reform and Conservative conversions done in Israel, as well as those of non-state, independent Orthodox rabbinical courts.
Meanwhile, the Reform and Masorti, or Conservative movements of progressive Judaism are seeking to obtain a ruling favorable to their goals from the High Court on a petition they filed to grant non-Orthodox converts recognition by the state.
Under the new compromise, “In effect, the appellants 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,” Netanyahu said.
According to a Haaretz, Netyanyahu called a meeting with haredi politicians, including Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of the Shas party, on Friday to defuse the situation. Deri walked out of the meeting before anything, Haaretz reported, but according to the Jerusalem Post an agreement on the compromise was reached later in the day.
A source described by Haaretz as “senior official” told the daily that Netanyahu decided to call the meeting of coalition party heads after receiving harsh messages from the heads of the U.S. pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, on Thursday, as well as messages from other groups over the last few days.
Both in the Haredi and the progressive movements, an agreement was reached to suspend these efforts for until 2018.
In the meantime, Netyanyahu is to appoint a committee to review the issue and present alternative arrangements, the Post reported.
The fight by progressive streams of Judaism in Israel and their allies for recognition of their conversions is part of a larger struggle for equal status in the Jewish state as the Rabbinate, which is an Orthodox body whose court system is part of the Israel judiciary, acting as family courts for Israeli Jews.