Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman addressed during a faction meeting the deadlock in passing the conversion bill. He said, "It is not related to Torah or halacha, but to the power struggle within United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and fights between Shas and UTJ."
"I am sorry that things happened the way they did. Yisrael Beiteinu is a movement that respects tradition, but is based on the clear principle of live and let live. We are not 'Shinui.' We are not against halacha. We are for the traditions of Israel. We have no interest in breaking up the coalition," Lieberman claimed.
The foreign minister added that the parties have reached an agreement vis-à-vis the conversion bill, but claimed Shas withdraw its support. "We were amazed to find out on Sunday that Shas withdrew from its obligation to support the bill. We've tried to reach a consensus and flexibility – therefore we had reached an optimal agreement."
"I have been handling this matter for many years. The subject is indeed sensitive and complex, and we have not spared any effort in reaching an understanding and consensus. I do not believe in revolution, but evolution. Both bills, the conversation and the civil marriage bills are precisely a manifestation of this evolution and symbolizes an important breakthrough, while there is still more room for improvements. We understand the coalitional and halachic complexities," he said.
Lieberman explained the rationale behind the main amendment to the bill – expanding the authority of municipal rabbis to approve conversions: "There is an attempt to regress on the issue of the municipal rabbis. This attitude – of not being able to trust municipal rabbis in the conversion process – is simply heresy."
'Responsibility does not fall on Yisrael Beiteinu'
"It's unthinkable that municipal rabbis are trusted with matters such as kosher laws, marriages, burials, circumcisions, bar-mitzvahs – but not on the issue of conversions. This is unacceptable, and therefore we believe the proposal – as agreed by Rabbi Amar and MK Rotem – expresses the maximal consensus, which must be adhered to," he said.
According to the foreign minister, "Following the justice minister's request, we have agreed to postpone the vote by 24 hours and try to persuade UTJ and Shas elements. Today we will hold a discussion and tomorrow there will be a vote and a deliberation about the objections, as well as a second and third reading on the civil marriage bill. I hope we reach an agreement on the conversion bill as well."
"Next week the Knesset will go on recess," Lieberman added, "And we want to do the utmost effort to end this chapter, this legislation, before the recess. Responsibility for this entanglement does not fall on Yisrael Beiteinu, but on those who withdrew from their obligations and signatures. We have spent a whole year trying to convince, understand and accommodate," he concluded.
The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee held a session on Monday, which addressed the conversion reform bill being spearheaded by Yisrael Beiteinu.
The committee's chairman, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) expressed his deep conviction in the law's importance and criticized the bill's opponents: "When I reach the world of truth, after I pass this bill, I will brag about it and will be granted access to paradise. Whoever blocks it – I don't know what he will receive."