"The Knesset has no halachic or moral authority to decide on halachic matters," a spokesman for the Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur said in response to a decision by the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Matters that the conversions performed by the IDF over the years are valid, even though most of the "converts" are non-Jews and did not keep a single Shabbos.
"It should be made clear once and for all," said the Vaad spokesman, "that conversion is an entirely halachic activity and only leading rabbonim can determine the matter. The consensus of all leading poskim of all backgrounds is that conversion without a genuine acceptance of the mitzvas at the time of the conversion does not apply at all, and therefore the Knesset's decision to accept these converts has no halachic significance whatsoever."
On Sunday the Ministerial Committee passed with a large majority a proposal by MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu determining that all of the "conversions" performed by the army are legal and nobody can annul them. According to the proposal, the move would apply to all those currently in the process of conversion as well as future conversions.
Shas ministers opposed the bill. Meshulam Nahari announced that he would file an additional appeal over the decision, adding that his legal advisers said it would be possible, although he already filed an appeal two weeks ago.
Two weeks ago the ministerial committee rejected the vote on the bill. It held a meeting on the issue, but Minister Nahari said then that the law was a blatant abrogation of the status quo on issues of religion and state, and the issue is not open according to coalition agreements. It was decided that the initiative would be raised again in another two months, but the appeal filed against the rejection was accepted and the initiative was raised for discussion this week.
The proposal was first raised following a call by Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur to freeze the army conversion program following a Chief Rabbinate decision that set up a committee to assess its function, in light of alarming reports on how it operates, and after State officials, whose opinion carries no halachic weight "acknowledged" that the halachic status of these "converts" is in doubt.
During a High Court hearing two months ago as part of a petition to force city rabbis to register non-Jews as Jews in marriage registries, a State official said IDF conversions were not conducted by authorized dayonim and were not approved by the Rabbinate.
After members of the Chief Rabbinate Council heard grave testimonies on the serious defects plaguing the IDF conversion process and even appointed a committee of inquiry, all IDF conversions should have been frozen, pending investigations into the matter. Yet instead, a few days later four lenient marriage registrars were appointed to sidestep the authority of the city rabbis who operate in accordance with halacha. The approval of the bill would cause a serious breach and would invariably bring non-Jews into Kerem Beis Yisroel.