Cabinet Passes Shamir’s Reappointment of Shas Leader Peretz As Minister

Premier Yitzhak Shamir won Cabinet approval Sunday to appoint Shas Party leader Yitzhak Peretz a Minister-Without Portfolio. Peretz reigned as Minister of Interior last year rather than comply with a Supreme Court order to register American immigrant Shoshana Miller as Jewish. She was converted to Judaism by a Reform rabbi in the U.S.

His return to the government is reportedly part of an agreement Shamir made to the ultra-Orthodox party to push a measure through the Knesset which would make Israel’s Chief Rabbinate the sole arbiter of conversions performed overseas.

Shamir set a 60-day deadline for Knesset action, during which time Peretz agreed to serve without portfolio. If Shamir is successful, he will resume the office of Interior Minister. If he fails, Shas would not be obligated to support Likud’s efforts to prevent the Labor Party from dissolving the Knesset and calling early elections.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction Monday barring formers Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef from involving himself in polities. Yosef is a rabbinical court judge who by law is forbidden to engage in political activities.

Complaints were brought by MKs Yossi Sarid of the Citizens Rights Movement and Yair Tsaban of Mapam that Yosef violated the rule by playing a role in Shas Party bargaining with Likud to return to the unity government. Religious Affairs Minister Zevulun Hammer said, however, that he was satisfied that Yosef confined himself to advising Shas on halachic conversion issues.

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