A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
February 16, 2009--Religious Issues at the Center of Coaltion Negotiations.
Coalition negotiations continue, despite the fact the key figure in the negotiations, (Avigdor Lieberman), is vacationing in Minsk. Likud leaders have been going around all day saying they will be able to form a coalition without difficulty and that Kadima should stop talking about various combinations, and giving spin. The only problem with that claim is that the Likud is making no progress at resolving the differences between Israel Beitenu and Shas. Israel Betinu wants civil marriage for the estimated 300,000 adults in Israel who cannot meet the requirements for a religious marriage. Some of these couples are from mixed marriage, some are divorcees, others are halachic "mamzerim". Shas will hear none of this and will not compromise. It is willing to think of finding solutions for non Jews, but the Ashkenazi Rabbis are not willing to even consider that possibility. Lieberman's second demand, on which he also claims he is not willing to compromise is simplifying the conversion process. Leiberman wants to eliminate the power of the chief rabbinate in the process and instead allow local Rabbis to conduct conversions.
To complicate matters further, Lieberman's party announced that Kadima has accepted all its demands. President Peres has announced he will begin coalition consultations on Wednesday-- the day Lieberman returns from Minsk.