Religious politicians on Tuesday said they will demand legislation on Orthodox conversion to Judaism as a precondition to joining the next coalition.
After a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that instructs the state to recognize more liberal conversions conducted in Israel by Conservative and Reform rabbis, religious politicians and rabbinical leaders demanded the ruling be overlooked until a new law can be passed.
The Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Haredi MK Yaakov Asher said the decision by the Supreme Court to announce its ruling ahead of the March 23 elections is a blatant interference in the political sphere. "It is time to limit the judges' activism," he said.
The landmark ruling of the eight Judge panel, 15 years in the making, centered around the combustible question of who is Jewish and marked an important victory for the Reform and Conservative movements. These liberal streams of Judaism, which represent the vast majority of affiliated American Jews, have long been marginalized in Israel.
The ruling only interprets the existing law, the court said, while parliament “at any time can set a different arrangement in the law”.
Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman who heads the United Torah Judaism Party and his second in command, MK Moshe Gafni said they would not join a new coalition unless there is a firm commitment to legislate that only an Orthodox conversion would be valid in Israel.
Interior Minister Arye Deri leader of the Shas party said the court ruling is unfortunate and would bring about a rift among Jews. "I am committed to repair the legislation to ensure that only the Orthodox conversion will be recognized."
A member of Deri's party, Religious Affairs Minister Yaakov Avitan called the more liberal factions' conversions "ridiculous."
"Jews protected their identity over thousand of years of observance to Halachik law," he said. It is absurd to see that in Israel of all places, a miserable decision by Judges can void the country from its Jewish identity."
The right-wing Yamina Party headed by former Defense Minister Naftali Bennet agreed.
In a statement released on Monday the party said that the democratically elected representatives of the and not the unelected judges should determine such an important issue.
MK Bezalel Smotrich who heads the far-right Religious Zionist Party, said he had been concerned that such a ruling would be delivered.
"Only a rightwing government will be able to pass a law ensuring Orthodox conversions as well as legislation that would allow the Knesset to bypass other Supreme Court rulings that could change the nature of Israel as a Jewish state," the Religious Zionist Party added in a statement released on Monday.