Bennett ‘supported conversion reform as a tactic’
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Live updates (closed)Latest: Mark Regev may be next envoy to UK

Bennett wants a rabbinate ‘not controlled’ by the ultra-Orthodox

Jewish Home leader, whose conversion reform was killed following pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties, says he supported alternative reform courts as a ‘tactical’ move

  • Prime Minister's Office Spokesman Mark Regev (Screen capture YouTube)
    Prime Minister's Office Spokesman Mark Regev (Screen capture YouTube)
  • Yair Lapid, July 27, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Yair Lapid, July 27, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Gendarmes walk on  the quay of the river where is held "Gaza Plages" (Gaza Beach), near the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction during the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. The "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" attraction sparked uproar among some left-wing politicians and pro-Palestinian groups, and protesters have vowed to celebrate a "Gaza Beach" nearby.  (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)
    Gendarmes walk on the quay of the river where is held "Gaza Plages" (Gaza Beach), near the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction during the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. The "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" attraction sparked uproar among some left-wing politicians and pro-Palestinian groups, and protesters have vowed to celebrate a "Gaza Beach" nearby. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)
  • People hold placards reading "I am Ali, 18 months, burned alive by a Jewish Israeli colonist, who only took 6 months" (L), and "We should live together as brothers, or we will all die together as idiots" (R) as part of  "Gaza Plages" (Gaza Beach), near the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction during the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouiilard/AFP)
    People hold placards reading "I am Ali, 18 months, burned alive by a Jewish Israeli colonist, who only took 6 months" (L), and "We should live together as brothers, or we will all die together as idiots" (R) as part of "Gaza Plages" (Gaza Beach), near the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction during the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouiilard/AFP)
  • A woman plays beach tennis at the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction as part of the  14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)
    A woman plays beach tennis at the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction as part of the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)
  • In this photo provided Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, by the Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, Muslim worshipers attend Friday prayers in a mosque in the central Syrian town of Qaryatain. (Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants via AP)
    In this photo provided Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, by the Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, Muslim worshipers attend Friday prayers in a mosque in the central Syrian town of Qaryatain. (Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants via AP)
  • Bezalel Smotrich (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Bezalel Smotrich (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Lehava chairman Bentzi Gopstein is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on December 16, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Lehava chairman Bentzi Gopstein is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on December 16, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.

Israeli who tried to join IS caught over expired passport

An Arab man from East Jerusalem who resides in the US is accused of attempting to join the ranks of Islamic State in Syria.

An indictment was served against Fares Sharitah, 18, at the Jerusalem District Court today.

The man planned to enter Syria through Turkey with two members of his family.

The three came to Istanbul some three months ago, but the defendant’s Israeli passport was expired and so his entry to Turkey was not approved.

The two relatives entered Syria while Sharitah came back to Israel to renew his passport. While he was in Israel, he contacted his two relatives in Syria and his message was intercepted by security forces.

The State Attorney’s Office seeks to extend the defendant’s remand until the end of proceedings.

Shas paper calls Rabbi Stav ‘Reform with kippa’

The ultra-Orthodox war on Rabbi David Stav over his initiative to establish a new conversion authority separate from the Chief Rabbinate has escalated to using what the community sees as the worst insult: Reform Jews.

In an editorial in Yom Leyom, a Shas-affiliated publication, the rabbis spearheading the initiative are described as “Reform with kippot.” Stav’s picture was displayed in the pamphlet with the headline “Dangerous to the rabbinate, to Judaism and the Torah.”

Other rabbis behind the initiative are mentioned in the editorial by name but without the title “rabbi.”

Rabbi David Stav, cofounder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization.  June 20, 2013. (Flash 90, File)

Rabbi David Stav, cofounder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization. June 20, 2013. (Flash 90, File)

Record number of passengers in airport today

Ben Gurion Airport willl see 80,000 people pass through its terminals today on nearly 460 flights – a record number.

The Israel Airport Authority assesses that some 2 million passengers will pass through the airport in August – the largest number of passengers to come and go in a single month ever recorded.

According to Israel Radio, the increase in air traffic is largely due to the Open Skies agreement, which increased the number of carriers whose airplanes land in Ben Gurion and lowered the cost of flights.

Illustrative photo of an El Al flight taking off at Ben Gurion Airport. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)

Illustrative photo of an El Al flight taking off at Ben Gurion Airport. (Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)

PA sued by student on allegations of torture

A Palestinian human rights group has filed a civil lawsuit against the PA seeking $1 million in compensation for a man who was allegedly tortured while held in a PA detention center, a press release quoted by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency says.

The Civil Authority for the Independence of the Judiciary Body and Rule of Law (ISTIQLAL) said in a statement carried by Ma’an that its client, Ahmad Bilal Abd al-Malak al-Deek, has officially registered the lawsuit in a Nablus court.

Al-Deek, a student at Al-Quds University from the village of Kafr ad-Dik in the region of Salfit in the northern West Bank, was detained for five days in early July after he criticized the local government on social media.

3 youths held on suspicion of West Bank arson

Three radical right-wing activists were arrested today by police and the Shin Bet security service on suspicion of arson near Ramallah, according to Honenu, an NGO supplying legal counsel to settlers.

The three, all minors and all known to the police, were arrested at an illegal outpost near the settlement Kochav Hashahar. According to Honenu, a warrant was issued preventing the three from meeting an attorney, harming their basic civil rights.

Gays control the media, says Jewish Home MK

Gays are in control of the media, according to Jewish Home MK and self-professed homophobe Bezalel Smotrich.

“There’s many senior officials in the media market in Israel, among those who hold the mic and tell us what we should think and what we should say, many, many of them are [LGBT] themselves,” Smotrich told Galei Israel Radio in an interview today.

Smotrich claims that since gays control the media, there is legitimization and support for them. “Themselves, they are either close to it in second or third degrees and because of this, by the way, it’s not surprising. I asked myself a lot, ‘How come suddenly everyone is…[gay]’ … I am sure 95 percent of Israeli citizens would want their kids to raise families and give them grandchildren. A healthy person, a normal person, that’s what they do.”

Participants of the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade kiss, September 18, 2014 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Participants of the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade kiss, September 18, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Gopshtain files complaint against Haaretz, for incitement

The head of the Lehava organization, Bentzi Gopshtain, filed a complaint with the police over incitement to terrorism and violence against the website of Haaretz and columnist Nissan Shor.

Gopshtain follows in the footsteps of Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, who filed a similar complaint against the paper.

In the obviously satirical column, Shor described his wish to see a left-wing militia established to “teach a lesson” to various groups, including Lehava, the radical Beitar Jerusalem fan club La Familia, and Smotrich.

All the groups named by Shor were involved in recent incidents of violence or – like Smotrich – made bigoted remarks in the media.

The newspaper declined to comment.

Lehava chairman Bentzi Gopshtain is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem on December 16, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lehava chairman Bentzi Gopshtain is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem on December 16, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

PLO office in Damascus to reopen – report

Palestinian sources say the Syrian government agreed to reopen the Fatah party offices in Damascus, which have been closed since 1982 when the movement split.

According to a report in Ynet, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal el Mekdad told the diplomatic representative of the PLO in Damascus about the decision to reopen the office.

Over the past few months there was cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Assad regime regarding the condition of Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp, near Damascus.

‘Tel Aviv beach’ draws police, protests in Paris

A Paris beach event celebrating Tel Aviv attracted a handful of visitors but a huge number of journalists, riot police and security guards on Thursday, as well as a much larger “Gaza Beach” protest.

Bemused locals who headed down to “Tel Aviv Sur Seine” had to maneuver through bag checks, security pat-downs and metal detectors to reach the small stretch of sand on the banks of the Seine.

Paris converts a long stretch of its riverbank into a makeshift beach known as “Paris Plages” every summer, and has this year named certain days after resorts around the world.

Thursday’s event consisted of little more than a few people playing bat and ball in front of a picture of Tel Aviv, but it has been enough to excite a major media brouhaha after objections from anti-Israel protesters.

“There are 50 visitors for 500 journalists. I feel like I’m on the red carpet at Cannes,” said one onlooker.

The Tel Aviv section of the beach, not far from Notre Dame cathedral, was only around 200 meters (yards) long and guarded by a phalanx of riot police on either end.

“Coming today is an act of solidarity with the Jewish people,” said Cecilia, an Italian stretched out on a beach chair, adding that she was “a little afraid that this will degenerate.”

— AFP

See images from the ‘Paris Tel Aviv Beach’

A woman plays beach tennis at the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction as part of the  14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

A woman plays beach tennis at the “Tel-Aviv sur Seine” beach attraction as part of the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

A woman sets up a parasol during the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction as part of the  14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. Paris was to deploy some 500 police along the River Seine on August 13, at the start of a controversial beach attraction dedicated to Tel Aviv.  (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

A woman sets up a parasol during the “Tel-Aviv sur Seine” beach attraction as part of the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

Gendarmes walk on  the quay of the river where is held "Gaza Plages" (Gaza Beach), near the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction during the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. The "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" attraction sparked uproar among some left-wing politicians and pro-Palestinian groups, and protesters have vowed to celebrate a "Gaza Beach" nearby.  (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

Gendarmes walk on the quay of the river where is held “Gaza Plages” (Gaza Beach), near the “Tel-Aviv sur Seine” beach attraction during the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

People hold placards reading "I am Ali, 18 months, burned alive by a Jewish Israeli colonist, who only took 6 months" (L), and "We should live together as brothers, or we will all die together as idiots" (R) as part of  "Gaza Plages" (Gaza Beach), near the "Tel-Aviv sur Seine" beach attraction during the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouiilard/AFP)

People hold placards reading “I am Ali, 18 months, burned alive by a Jewish Israeli colonialist, who only got 6 months” (L), and “We should live together as brothers, or we will all die together as idiots” (R) as part of “Gaza Plages” (Gaza Beach), near the “Tel-Aviv sur Seine” beach attraction during the 14th edition of Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) in central Paris, on August 13, 2015. (Kenzo Tribouiilard/AFP)

Mother, 91, reunites with daughter born during WWII

Seven decades after being torn apart from each other by the Nazi regime, an Italian mother and her German daughter have found each other again, according to a press release from International Tracing Services, a company “committed to keep the memory of the millions of victims of Nazi persecution alive,” according to ITS’s mission statement on its website.

Margot Bachmann, born in Germany in 1944, wanted certainty about her ancestry, and began searching for traces of her mother. Seeking help from International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, the company found in July that Gianna, Margot’s mother and herself a survivor of the forced labor camps of Nazi Germany, is 91 years old and living in Novellara, a small town in northern Italy.

Over the weekend mother and daughter met for the first time since being separated more than 70 years ago.

The two women met in Novellara and were accompanied by staff members from ITS and from the Italian Red Cross.

A full story will appear shortly on The Times of Israel website.

IDF chief presents vision for army’s future

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot published the “IDF Strategy Document,” a paper “mapping the threats against Israel, the IDF’s modus operandi and the ways [the military] can achieve its goals.”

The document, unusual in that it is not classified, presents what Eisenkot said are the changes necessary in the military in light of the challenges of the future and the changing nature of Israel’s enemies.

Eisenkot mentions, among others, increasing the effectiveness of land maneuvers, diversifying the IDF’s operational capabilities between wars, strengthening its cyber capabilities and preserving a clear edge in nautical and aerial capabilities and in intelligence.

Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot, seen here when he was still a major general. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot, seen here when he was still a major general. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Real Tel Aviv way more fun than its Paris tribute, lament visitors

As French police swamped the Tel Aviv Beach installation on the bank of the Seine in France, the nearby pro-Palestinian protest (“Gaza Beach”) remained quite civil and peaceful, but the whole event, some visitors say, lost its appeal.

“I thought I would find the atmosphere of Tel Aviv here, the beach, the music; but all I see is police officers and barriers extending for meters away,” Michelle Alia, a local woman tells French paper Le Monde.

Alia, however, expressed understanding for the apparent police hysteria: “Having heard ‘Death to Jews’ when I lived in Sarcelles, I find it normal that security will be deployed here in such a manner. But we would not need it if not for the great disagreement [over the installation].”

Meanwhile, at the “Gaza Beach” area, which is not sponsored by the Paris municipality, the atmosphere is belligerent, Le Monde reports. Activists are giving away pamphlets, holding signs including photos of baby Ali Dawabsha, and the words “Hidalgo, sponsor of colonialism,” referring to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

One woman calls passersby over to offer them homemade falafel balls. She vows to stick around until the Tel Aviv installation folds up. “We need to show that we exist, the Palestinians are completely forgotten,” she says.

Another woman asks why Paris chose to honor Tel Aviv, part of a country that “screws around” with the Palestinians. “Did they have ‘Berlin Beach’ in 1944?” she asks, making a reference to Nazi Germany.

That Berlin is hundreds of miles away from the nearest beach seemed lost on the activist, as well as the fact that for most of 1944 the Germans were actually already in Paris, as occupiers.

Iran remains popular among Palestinians, poll finds

A majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have a favorable view of Iran’s policies, a poll found.

The survey of 919 Palestinians commissioned by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that 55 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and 57% in Gaza viewed Iran’s policies favorably, with 29% in the West Bank and 13% in Gaza rating them as “very good.”

Forty-five percent of West Bank respondents and 43% in Gaza gave Iran’s policies a “fairly bad” or “very bad rating.”

The poll was conducted June 7-19, during the nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers. The respondents were interviewed on their views of Iran and neighboring countries.

Two Iran-backed terrorist groups enjoyed high approval ratings, the poll found. The Lebanon-based Hezbollah received a 69% approval rating in the West Bank and 57 percent in Gaza. The Palestinians’ Islamic Jihad was given a 71% favorable rating in the West Bank and 84% in Gaza, eclipsing Hamas’s popularity there.

— JTA

Breaking: King’s Cross station in London evacuated

British police have reportedly evacuated passengers from King’s Cross station in central London after a man was detained, the Independent reports.

A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman says: “BTP officers are on scene at King’s Cross station dealing with an ongoing incident. A man has been detained by officers on the platforms and enquiries are ongoing.”

More details will follow.

Kerry complains to Moscow about Iran general’s visit

US Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov today to express concern about a visit to Moscow by the commander of Iran’s covert revolutionary forces, a senior State Department official says.

General Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ foreign operations, reportedly visited Russia late last month despite being subject to international sanctions.

The content of the call between Kerry and Lavrov was not made public.

— AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left), and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talk as they walk together on the grounds of the Chief of Mission Residence in Paris, France, on October 14, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left), and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talk as they walk together on the grounds of the Chief of Mission Residence in Paris, France, on October 14, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

London bus station reopens after arrest

King’s Cross is beginning to reopen after police take a wanted man in custody. According to reports, the arrest is drug-related.

Lapid says next election is him vs. Netanyahu

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is not the leader of the opposition – a position reserved for the head of the largest non-coalition party, in this government, Zionist Union – but he is positioning himself as an alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and tells Ynet today: “The next election will be Lapid vs. Netanyahu.”

The Yesh Atid leader, who served in the coalition in the previous government as finance minister, says the next election may take place as soon as next year, even as Israel is just getting over a campaign that ended in late March.

“Our international standing is abysmal; we’re moving backwards in every field,” Lapid says.

Lapid in recent months has taken positions which often agree with the government in spirit but nevertheless are sharply critical of it. For example, he called on Netanyahu to step down due to his “failure,” in Lapid’s words, to influence the nuclear deal with Iran. Lapid shares the prime minister’s view that the agreement is bad for Israel, but sees the PM as primarily responsible for that failure.

Yair Lapid, speaks during a Yesh Atid party meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem on July 20, 2015. ( Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yair Lapid, speaks during a Yesh Atid party meeting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem on July 20, 2015. ( Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Another heat wave coming Israel’s way

Israelis who thought last week’s heat wave was the worst this summer has to offer will have to think again.

The country is bracing for another heatwave beginning on Saturday and lasting until Tuesday.

The Health Ministry is calling on the public,especially elderly citizens and people suffering from chronic diseases, to avoid exposure to the sun and heat as much as possible, avoid physical exercise and to keep a healthy regime of water intake.

Children play in a water fountain on a hot summer day near the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem on a hot summer day. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Children play in a water fountain on a hot summer day near the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem on a hot summer day. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

 

Turkey goes to elections after coalition talks fail

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says that coalition talks with the main opposition party had failed, paving the way for snap legislative elections as Ankara battles its biggest security crisis against militants in years.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority in June 7 polls for the first time since it came to power in 2002, in a major setback for its co-founder President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

AKP leader Davutoglu and Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu held a one-and-half hour meeting in Ankara in what was seen as a final chance to agree a coalition government.

“We have not been successful in assuring a favorable base for the creation of a government,” Davutoglu said at AKP headquarters afterwards, insisting the ruling party had “done its best.”

The country will head to elections sometime in November.

— AFP

Tempo recalls Jump grape-flavored drink over foul smell

The Tempo beverage company announced that some of the glass bottles of the Jump grape-flavored drink have an uncharacteristic smell and unknown residue at the bottom of the bottle.

The company recalled the bottles and calls on the public not to consume the drink.

The batch in question has an expiry date of January 14, 2015 and the production code L5196, or January 15, 2015 and the production code L5197.

Customers who bought bottles from these batches are welcome to call customer service at 1-800-300-370 (in Israel). The company promises to compensate consumers who bought the bad drinks.

Mark Regev may be next envoy to UK

PMO spokesman Mark Regev (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

PMO spokesman Mark Regev (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, may be a candidate for the position of ambassador to London, Channel 2 reports.

Regev, an Australian by descent, is a well-known face on international television and has presented Israel’s position during the past two wars in Gaza.

In other recent ambassadorial appointments, Dani Dayan, former Yesah Council leader, was recently announced as the next ambassador to Brazil. Dayan was born in Argentina.

Fiamma Nirenstein, an Italian journalist and former MP who immigrated to Israel two years ago, was recently announced as the next ambassador to Rome.

In Tel Aviv, celebrating the Parisian Seine bank tribute

There is Tel Aviv sur Seine and then there’s Tel Aviv.

After Paris Mayor Anne Hildalgo refused to cancel the “Tel Aviv sur Seine” day despite calls from critics denouncing the event as promoting Israeli politics, Israelis celebrate on the coast of the Mediterranean together with French tourists.

French tourists and Israelis dance on a beach in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv during a gathering in response to the controversy surrounding the "Tel Aviv sur Seine" event in Paris on August 13, 2015. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

French tourists and Israelis dance on a beach in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv during a gathering in response to the controversy surrounding the “Tel Aviv sur Seine” event in Paris on August 13, 2015. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Bennett ‘supported conversion reform as a tactic’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett says he opposes the establishment of an alternative conversion authority in Israel but wants to “deflate” the Chief Rabbinate back to its original proportions and this is why he supported a group of rabbis who announced earlier this week that they want to establish the new authority.

Speaking to Haaretz, the Jewish Home leader clarifies that his support of the group was a tactical move. The minister “is happy that people are waking up” and says the rabbis who established the religious court network “Giyur Kahalacha” (A Proper Conversion) are “taking responsibility for the people of Israel and decided not to close their eyes.”

Naftali Bennett, July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Naftali Bennett, July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bennett says he supported the network so that the conversion reform, advanced by Jewish Home but killed by the government following pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties, gets back to the stage. The minister says he still wants “to reach a situation in which the institutions of the state are preserved.”

“What happened now [with the establishment of Giyur Kahalacha] – is that the cord was torn, and from this perspective I am happy that people are waking up. But what will need to happen at the end, and I will try to do this in coming months, is lead to some compromise or outline that will see the Chief Rabbinate in control again but with its power dispersed,” Bennet says.

“This means, allowing the panels conducting conversion now [in alternative courts] and in fact reviving the government’s previous decision. Otherwise, we will have more and more partisan authorities, and the Jewish State as such will be destroyed. We did not come to be a Jewish State in the Land of Israel so that we have Shtetls of different communities,” he says.

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Live updates (closed) Latest: Mark Regev may be next envoy to UK

Bennett ‘supported conversion reform as a tactic’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett says he opposes the establishment of an alternative conversion authority in Israel but wants to “deflate” the Chief Rabbinate back to its original proportions and this is why he supported a group of rabbis who announced earlier this week that they want to establish the new authority.

Speaking to Haaretz, the Jewish Home leader clarifies that his support of the group was a tactical move. The minister “is happy that people are waking up” and says the rabbis who established the religious court network “Giyur Kahalacha” (A Proper Conversion) are “taking responsibility for the people of Israel and decided not to close their eyes.”

Naftali Bennett, July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett, July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bennett says he supported the network so that the conversion reform, advanced by Jewish Home but killed by the government following pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties, gets back to the stage. The minister says he still wants “to reach a situation in which the institutions of the state are preserved.”

“What happened now [with the establishment of Giyur Kahalacha] – is that the cord was torn, and from this perspective I am happy that people are waking up. But what will need to happen at the end, and I will try to do this in coming months, is lead to some compromise or outline that will see the Chief Rabbinate in control again but with its power dispersed,” Bennet says.

“This means, allowing the panels conducting conversion now [in alternative courts] and in fact reviving the government’s previous decision. Otherwise, we will have more and more partisan authorities, and the Jewish State as such will be destroyed. We did not come to be a Jewish State in the Land of Israel so that we have Shtetls of different communities,” he says.