Shamir Promises Shas to Push Measure Through the Knesset Requiring Conversions Performed Abroad to B

Premier Yitzhak Shamir gave his written promise Tuesday night to the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party to achieve within 60 days passage by the Knesset of an amendment to existing legislation which would require all conversions to Judaism performed overseas to be approved by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Shas undertook, in return, to support Likud in its efforts to block the Labor Party from dissolving the Knesset and calling early elections. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and other Labor Party leaders have said new elections are the only way to break the unity government’s deadlock over an international conference for Middle East peace.

Shamir made his pledge to Shas leader Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, the former Minister of Interior who resigned last year rather than comply with a Supreme Court order to register as Jewish Shoshana Miller, an American immigrant converted by a Reform rabbi in the U.S.

Shas has made no specific commitments regarding an international conference but Peretz said after signing his agreement with Shamir that his party opposed it. According to the agreement, Peretz will return to the Cabinet as a Minister-Without-Portfolio pending passage of the promised amendment. Afterwards he would resume the office of Interior Minister.

If Shamir fails to push the measure through the Knesset, Peretz said Shas would be relieved of its obligation to support Likud against Labor efforts to call early elections.

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