Likud Agrees to Orthodox Demands on Religious Issues

Likud signed a 46 clause coalition agreement with the National Religious Party (NRP) and the Agudat Israel today that gives the religious factions a virtual carte blanche in the enforcement of their religious and social precepts on the nation.

One of the key points is a promise that the Premier will, within a reasonable time, take action to ensure a parliamentary majority to approve a law that would invest rabbinical courts with sole authority to approve certificates of conversion. Such a law would, in effect, resolve the “Who is a Jew” question according to Orthodox demands and place in doubt the validity of conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis abroad.

Likud promised another law that would prevent the performance of autopsies unless permitted by the family or by a committee consisting of two doctors and a rabbi. It promised to amend Israel’s abortion law to deny abortion for economic or social reasons. The agreement calls for a total ban on public transportation on the Sabbath and a review of Sabbath work permits to reduce work on Saturday to a minimum. Sabbath work permits would be denied on grounds of economic hardship.

Under the agreement, a certificate approved by a rabbinical court, a civil court or notary to the effect that a woman of military age is religious would be sufficient to obtain her release from military service.

Nine clauses of the coalition agreement provide increased power to the rabbinical courts. They are invested with the right to impose and carry out sentences. The agreement also promises enactment of laws against fraud in kashrut, against marketing pork in Jewish population centers and against pornographic films. The independent educational network of the ultra-Orthodox Aguda will be given equal standing with the State religious schools. Members of the Aguda will sit on various Knesset committees and the Aguda will have a free hand on religion-related matters before the Knesset.

READY TO NEGOTIATE

In the political sphere, the coalition agreement repeats Likud’s basic declaration of “the historic and eternal right of Israel to Eretz Israel” which, according to Likud, includes all of the West. Bank and Gaza Strip. But the coalition also affirmed its readiness to participate in the Geneva conference on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. It calls on the neighboring Arab countries to start negotiations without any pre-conditions. It promises not to impose Israeli laws on the administered territories as long as peace talks are underway or progress toward peace talks is being made. It pledges to abide by agreements signed by previous governments as long as there is no peace agreement to replace them.

The new coalition promises to act to check inflation, increase aliya and fight “yerida”–the emigration of Israelis. In the economic sphere the incoming government pledged efforts to reach agreement for a five day work week, a minimum wage law equal to the average wages in Israel’s economy, a pension bill allowing for worker mobility and government sponsorship of rental flats.

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