Netanyahu Tells Cabinet He Opposes Rotem Conversion Bill


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he opposes a proposed conversion bill, which "could tear apart the Jewish people."

Netanyahu made the comments Sunday at the regular Cabinet meeting.

The bill, which has been roundly condemned by the Reform and Conservative movements in the United States, Israel and in other countries in the Diaspora because it centralizes conversion in the hands of the Orthodox Rabbinate, could come up for a first reading this week.

Netanyahu has said he is working to make sure the bill does not reach the Knesset floor; on Sunday he said that he will instruct his Likud lawmakers to vote against the bill if it comes to a vote.

"This law has nothing to do with American Jewry. It does not deal with conversion abroad at all," bill sponsor David Rotem of the Israel Beiteinu party told Israel Radio on Sunday afternoon. "The law will pass, in the end the prime minister will support it and even vote for it."

The controversial bill comes as the rift between Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman and Netanyahu becomes increasingly larger.

Over the weekend Lieberman decried the state budget, which his lawmakers voted against, for taking away funds from portfolios held by his ministers, and on Friday, Lieberman, who is Israel’s foreign minister, appointed an acting United Nations ambassador without Netanyahu’s approval.