In 1997, amidst controversies over whether Israel, and the Israeli rabbinate, would recognize non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism, Israeli political and religious figures together with representatives of the major American denominations concluded a complex compromise that, although never made law, has governed policy de facto ever since. A bill recently before the Knesset would upend this compromise by solidifying the control over conversions exercised by the ultra-Orthodox-dominated Israeli chief rabbinate. Responding to outrage from American Jewish leaders, Prime Minister Netanyahu has shelved the bill—which seemed poised to pass—for six months. But, as Haviv Rettig Gur explains, the proposed legislation is a response to a conflict between the chief rabbinate and a group of Israeli Modern Orthodox rabbis—a conflict that is unlikely to go away.
A Knesset Bill on Conversion Puts Issues of Synagogue and State to the Test
Benny Gantz Should Be Praised for Compromising, Not Condemned for Capitulating
After three inconclusive elections in a year’s time, Israel’s political stalemate seemed to come to an end last week when the leaders of the two largest parties—Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu—agreed to form a governing coalition together with some of the smaller parties. According to the deal, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for eighteen months, after which he will be succeeded by Gantz. This compromise, paradoxically, has led to the breakup of Gantz’s Blue and White party, as two of its three constituent factions have refused to join the unity government. Their leaders have denounced Gantz for supposedly crumbling before Netanyahu, but Jonathan Tobin argues that he has acted bravely: