Interior Ministry Eli Yishai has signed a regulation that reinstates the nationality notation in the identification cards of all citizens who were eligible for the document before 2002.
Yishai decision's calls for the nationality section in ID cards issued to people who converted to Judaism through the Reform or Conservative movements to remain blank – a measure that defies a High Court of Justice ruling that officially recognizes the converts as Jews.
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While the regulation must first be approved by the Justice Ministry and the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, sources close to Yishai said that it is "just a formality that can be easily completed."
In 2002, Yishai decided to eliminate the nationality section from IDs altogether, to avoid carrying out the High Court ruling that called for the nationality of Reform and Conservative converts to be identified as "Jewish" on their state-issued documents.
Yishai now claims that many citizens, including Holocaust survivors, refuse to renew their worn-out IDs, because their new IDs will no longer reflect their Jewish nationality. He also said that many will avoid upgrading their old cards for the new "smart cards" for the same reason.
Representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements are furious with the decision, which they say discriminates against anyone who was not issued an ID, or wasn't eligible for one, before 2002 – including people who were born as Jews and roughly 5,000 people who converted in Israel and abroad through movements other than the ultra-Orthodox.
'Haredi minority damages Israel's' reputation'
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who heads Israel's Reform Judaism movement, sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming that the interior minister is "trampling the basic principles of equality and governmental reasonability in order to violate the recognized rights of converts from the reform, conservative and non-Orthodox movements."
Kariv urged Netanyahu to block the measure, and added that if he doesn't do so, his movement will petition the High Court of Justice over the issue.
"The transparent and unsophisticated use of Holocaust survivors as an excuse for the regulation just exposes how low Minister Yishai is willing to go in his battle against the reform communities," Kariv said.
Yizhar Hess, the CEO of the conservative movement, spoke out against Yishai as well. "It's hard to conceive a more cynical or mean decision," he said. "Instead of welcoming the converts, Minister Yishai sends a message of contempt and humiliation.
"The majority of the Jewish people belong to the Reform and Conservative movement,s but a fundamentalist haredi minority damages Israel's reputation and destroys its image, especially at a time when Israel needs the Jews of the world more than ever," he added.
Roee Lachmanovitch, Yisha's media consultant, released the following statement: "Thought the Reform and Conservative movements wish to see them themselves as important, the minister's decision has nothing to do with them.
"The decision stemmed from two reasons: one, that everyday, dozens of Israelis wish to reinstate the nationality notation in their IDs, which is legally impossible now; but more importantly, the future move the 'smart IDs' has many Israelis concerned that of they change their IDs, the notation would be automatically dropped."
Lachmanovitch added that "if anyone in the Reform Movement feells offended by the decision, they are welcome to turn to the High Court."
Omri Efraim and Attila Somfavi contributed to the report
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