MK David Rotem
Photo: Gil Yohanan
MK Chaim Amsellem
Photo: Noam Moskowitz
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has already given his sweeping approval of the IDF conversions, but the political grappling over the issue is far from over and at high personal cost to the rabbi.
Chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), made it clear at the committee's meeting Tuesday that in spite of the understandings he would continue to promote the IDF conversion bill. MK Chaim Amsellem (Shas) said that following Rabbi Ovadia's decision to approve the IDF conversion system, the rabbi and his family had been the victims of threats from haredi sources.
Emsellem blamed the Lithuanian faction for the purposeful abuse of soldiers who underwent a conversion through the IDF. "I fear that the Chief Rabbinate is their arm, enforcing their opinion. Anyone who has Israel's best interests at heart and for whom Judaism and the conversion plan are important knows of the bitter pill the soldiers must swallow."
On Rabbi Ovadia's situation Amselllem said: "There are threats and vituperation against him and his family." He then told MK Rotem: "We most certainly don't want those who undergo an IDF conversion to be considered as second rate citizens. I want to support your bill MK Rotem, and yet I can't but qualify that and add: Unless a better solution is found."
As for the future of the bill he's promoting MK Rotem said that "we will thoroughly examine why the Chief Rabbinate Committee made no decision on the matter but instead was forced to accept Rabbi Ovadia's decision.
"This will not be a political inquiry or a political discussion, but from a constitutional standpoint, the State isn't bound by halachic rulings. They bind the Chief Rabbinate. I know not all rabbinate council members are committed. I am committed to my bill."
His declarations managed to once again arouse the anger of the Shas representatives on the committee, who threatened to cause a coalition crisis if the bill was approved. "You have turned this committee into a political committee.
"If your agenda is political, then you have succeeded," MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) stated angrily. "This Bill is not only unnecessary, it is also harmful. If you wish to find a bridge in order to avoid conflict, I call on you to remove the bill."
Rotem responded to Zeev's allegations: "There is one thing that is sacred in my eyes. I will not allow political motivations to hurt soldiers and converts in general."
MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) who together with his colleague MK Uri Orbach presented a similar bill to Rotem's bill said that "due to the fact that Rabbi Amar agreed to accept Rabbi Ovadia's decision and since the bill on the agenda is unclear in terms of the acceptance of the IDF rabbinate and Rabbi Drukman, we have requested that the deliberation over our bill be postponed."
Rotem acceded to the request but made it clear that he himself had no intention of reconsidering.
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