United Torah Judaism joins government

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A fervently Orthodox Ashkenazi party joined the Likud government coalition.

The coalition deal between the United Torah Judaism and Likud parties was completed late Wednesday morning, just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new Cabinet was sworn in. United Torah Judaism has five Knesset seats.

Under the deal, the haredi party received two deputy minister positions, in the Health and Education ministries, and the chairmanship of two Knesset committees.

Moshe Gafni, the No. 2 UTJ lawmaker, was named chairman of the Finance Committee.

The party had hesitated to join the coalition over Yisrael Beiteinu’s proposal to change the rules for some conversions. But the party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, approved the compromise, which would in part allow municipal rabbis to conduct conversions but would still be supervised by the Chief Rabbinate.  

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