By a very narrow vote of 50 to 49, the Religious Councils
Law, designed to prevent Reform and Conservative from
joining, was passed by the Knesset on Tuesday. Passage of
this law is certainly the most significant achievement in
religious legislation during the 14th Knesset.
Voting on the Religious Councils Law designed to prevent
Reform from participating the country's Religious Councils
began at 10 Tuesday morning, and not on Monday, because
primaries for the chairman of the Likud were held on Monday,
and it is forbidden to conduct votes in the Knesset on such a
This past Monday, the Knesset began deliberating on Religious
Councils Law in its second and third reading. This law in its
current form is designed to prevent the inclusion of the
Reform and Conservative delegates in the religious councils.
Leftist representatives presented some two thousand
reservations to the law, in an attempt to delay passage.
Before the deliberations the proposed law was presented to
the plenum by the chairman of the Constitution Committee,
Chanan Porat (Mafdal) who said that the law is important to
maintain the separation of opposites. He said that he had no
objection to providing religious services for Reform and
Conservative separately. The issue is including them within
the regular Jewish framework.
The heads of the chareidi and religious factions in the
Knesset, as well as the heads of the coalition, made
extensive efforts during the past few days to secure a
majority for the passage of the law. On Monday, and even
Tuesday morning, they continued these efforts, with the hope
that the majority would be secured and the law passed.
The members of the chareidi and religious parties made
extensive efforts in the Knesset to persuade its members to
support the law, or at least to be absent during the voting.
Many attempts were made to persuade the Arab MK's to help
approve the law.
The MK's of UTJ said that the Prime Minister is obligated to
secure a majority for the proposed law, because he promised
to pass it.
Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz said that if the Knesset plenum approves
the law in the second and third readings, the Finance
Committee, which he heads, will immediately begin to vote on
the Arrangements Laws and the Budget Law, with the aim of
bringing them this week to final passage.
The chareidi MK's made it clear that if the Religious
Councils Law is not passed, they won't support the Budget Law
or the Arrangements law.
The chairman of the Labor party, MK Eli Goldschmidt turned to
the chairman of Likud, MK Meir Shetreet, and proposed a deal:
Likud won't support the Religious Councils Law and will cause
it to fail, and in exchange Labor and the other opposition
parties would help pass the budget. MK Shetreet rejected the
If the Religious Councils Law is approved, the Knesset will
begin deliberating on the Arrangements Law and the Budgets
Law, in their third reading, Wednesday morning, and the
voting will take place Thursday night.