According to recent negotiations between Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, Shas ministers may abstain or even vote in favor of Yisrael Beiteinu's military conversion bill, as long as it only passes a preliminary reading at the Knesset and is part of the general conversion law under the supervision of Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
A senior Shas official told Ynet on Saturday night that "Netanyahu's people suggested that we don't make a big deal out of it, promising not to advance the law after it passes a preliminary reading, basically burying it."
Another party official said Shas would vote against the bill, but clarified that there would be no coalition crisis. He added that the prime minister promised that the law would be brought to a preliminary reading but would not be advanced any further without the approval of Shas and Rabbi Amar.
Yishai and Lieberman. Nearing conflict (Photo: AP)
"Naturally, we will oppose a preliminary reading as well, because you can't be sure that the government won't continue advancing it in the future, in case of a coalition crisis," the source explained. "This proposal basically cancels the Chief Rabbinate's authority in terms of army conversions."
He added, however, that his party was negotiating with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the matter in order to reach a formula accepted by both sides, saying that he believed a solution would ne found by the time the Knesset votes on it on Wednesday.
The IDF conversion issue is not the only issue on the agenda. Additional bills agreed upon in the coalition agreement with Yisrael Beiteinu, including the general conversion law and the civil marriage law, are also expected to be discussed.
"Netanyahu will vote in favor of the IDF conversions, but will move closer to the haredi stand on the other issues, which are more sensitive and have an effect on the Jewish world," said a senior Likud minister. "These issues have been dragging on for a long time, so tensions are expected to develop between Yisrael Beiteinu and the haredim, which will cause problems in the coalition."
A coalition official noted that "these laws are not expected to prompt an immediate response, but we must also remember the approaching budget law, as well as the unpleasant atmosphere in the coalition. Netanyahu will have to navigate wisely between these obstacles in order to calm everyone down."
Knesset Member David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu said Shas' ministers were "trying to distort reality by claiming that the bill harms the status quo, but it's clear to all that the real damage to the status quo was caused when Rabbi Amar failed to voice a firm stand against the conversions' validity and did not speak out against those who questioned them. In the past, and more than once, Amar was the one who praised and glorified this conversion process."
Roni Sofer contributed to this report
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