The 19th Knesset will see a pivotal battle for the nature of conversion, as both the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party Shas
and the religious-Zionist party Habayit Hayehudi
intend to vie for control of the State Conversion Authority and Religious Affairs Ministry after the elections.
Since 2003, the Religious Affairs minister has been a Shas MK, which meant that Shas has been the de facto authority on all matters regarding the conversion
of Habayit Hayehudi told Ynet Wednesday that her party regards issues of conversion to Judaism
as a high priority and confirmed a Kipa website report suggesting that religious-Zionist party was eying the Religious Affairs Ministry.
According to Shaked, the party intends to promote the rights of the irreligious.
Referring to a meeting she had last week with olim from the former USSR, Shaked said she addressed an "Yisrael Beiteinu
initiative regarding domestic partnership. I told MK Dudu Rotem that I was behind the initiative."
The issue of conversion has been the subject of heated parliamentary debate, recent manifestations of which culminated in Shas' campaign ad which ridiculed
the conversion process of a Russian immigrant during her wedding ceremony.
The ad was criticized as offensive and racist and was eventually willingly removed by Shas after Central Election Committee Chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein
stated that "There may be a sense of generalizing offense."
Members of Shas have expressed their fears for the sanctity of Judaism in the past and are currently most concerned that the Religious Affairs Ministry will be represented by Habayit Hayeudi member.
Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan,
fourth in Habayit Hayeudi's Knesset list, has been ousted from position of Director of the Rabbinical Court due to his controversial stance on conversion and matrimony, and is the likely candidate to head the Religious Affairs Ministry should Habayit Hayehudi get its way in the post-election coalitional negotiations.
Habayit Hayehudi senior members have been holding covert discussions regarding the possibility that Ben-Dahan be appointed to the head the ministry.
Commenting on the issue, a Shas member told Ynet Wednesday that "The true nature of Habayit Hayehudi has been exposed. It's not maintaining the Jewish character of the State that is their highest priority, but rather blurring the (Jewish) identity under the guise of generosity. Only a strong Shas will prevent that."
Akiva Novick contributed to this report
Novick and Azulay are Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondents
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