Earlier, Netanyahu praised Interior Minister Yishai for his "intensive activity" which led to the approval of NIS 100 million (about $28 million) for improving Israel's firefighting services.
The cabinet meeting was temperamental. Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman shouted that "the attempt to advance this law is political." The meeting was stopped for a long period of time to allow Netanyahu to sit down with the Shas ministers at the cabinet secretariat.
Ministers defined the meeting as "very embarrassing". One of the ministers told Ynet, "Rabbi Druckman came and said, 'Listen, there has always been an IDF conversion, but someone suddenly found out that there was a technical problem. So it's not healthy to have both an IDF conversion and a regular conversion because people won't distinguish between them. Rabbi Amar is very logical, but he's abroad, so let's wait a few days.'"
Shas' ministers accepted this stand. "There is only a technical problem here, and we are in favor of conversions in the army," one of them said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman listened, but refused to budge. "I don't agree, I am in favor of competition. I don't want to drag this matter anymore. I have been waiting for these things to move for years. I want conversions in the army. It's the melting pot, and conversions must take place there. There are 300,000 people seeking a solution."
At this stage the other ministers asked Lieberman to give up and to agree not to vote on the bill. Lieberman was infuriated and said "no". "We had a coalition agreement about the government system, about the conversions, about the loyalty law. You gave us nothing… I want the IDF to be the way to convert. I am in favor of separating the IDF from the Chief Rabbinate's conversion."
Waiting for Wednesday
The prime minister, who spend a long time striking the deal with the Shas ministers, did not say a word. Only towards the end of the meeting he said, "We're not going to vote on it today. Perhaps we'll find a solution by Wednesday."
Ynet reported Saturday night that Netanyahu had offered to "bury the law" after it passes a preliminary reading at the Knesset. Shas turned down the proposal, demanding that he call off the government vote.
The deal the prime minister struck with Shas means that the party's appeal against the law still stands, and the entire coalition will be forced to vote against the Yisrael Beiteinu bill at the Knesset on Wednesday.
It is still unclear whether the bill will be voted on, although its initiator – Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset Member David Rotem – insists on bringing it to the Knesset.
"As long as there has been no vote on our appeal, the government cannot vote in favor of the law, and this applies to all coalition members," a senior Shas official said Sunday.
MK Rotem said Saturday night that 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."
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook