Knesset majority voices support for Neeman solution

JERUSALEM — A majority of the Knesset has voiced support for the Ne'eman Committee's recommendations to resolve the conversion crisis in Israel.

Sixty-five Knesset members, including four from the National Religious Party, signed a letter of support for the committee's recommendations. The letter was submitted Wednesday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who expressed hope that the Chief Rabbinate's council would endorse the recommendations.

The council is slated to discuss the matter Monday, a day before the High Court of Justice is to hold a hearing on petitions filed by the Conservative and Reform movements on the conversion issue.

Earlier this week, members of the Knesset Absorption Committee lobbied Israel's chief rabbis to back the Ne'eman Committee's recommendations.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau promised to deliver what he said would be the Chief Rabbinate's view of the Ne'eman committee proposals following Monday's discussion.

Lau has said that his main concern is not the Reform or Conservative movements, but the thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jews according to halachah.

While the Reform and Conservative movements have indicated their acceptance of the Ne'eman Committee's plan, the fervently religious Orthodox parties in Israel — Shas, Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah — issued a joint edict last week rejecting the Ne'eman Committee's approach.

Meanwhile, the compromise "technical solution" offered last week by Jewish Agency Chairman Avraham Burg has come under criticism by members of the panel who helped create it.

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, who represented Chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron on the panel, said that the plan was not agreed upon by all the panel members and that Burg "pulled a fast one."

In fact, Burg's name is the only one that appears on the letter sent to Netanyahu explaining the plan.

Burg admitted that the letter was "my personal recommendation and not necessarily that of the panel," but defended his actions, saying, "I didn't see the Chief Rabbinate accepting the Ne'eman Committee's recommendations by [Tuesday's scheduled court hearings]…So what do we do — leave it as a vacuum and let it fall, or try to create what I called the safety net?"