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Benjamin Netanyahu Withdraws Support From Conversion Bill

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly has withdrawn his support for a bill that would allow local rabbis to oversee conversions.

The bill, sponsored by the Hatnua party led by Tzipi Livni, passed one reading in the Knesset plenum in the summer.

The Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, which oversees all conversions in Israel, opposes the measure. Haredi Orthodox parties and the modern Orthodox Jewish Home party also are in opposition.

According to Hatnua lawmaker Elazar Stern, the bill’s sponsor, Netanyahu said he would support the measure but asked for a delay in bringing it to a vote more than once due to opposition from coalition partner Jewish Home, as well as following the summer’s military operation in Gaza and then because of the vote on the 2015 state budget.

The reports have fueled speculation in the Israeli media that Netanyahu will call early elections.

Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu withdrew his backing to shore up his coalition base and not upset the haredi Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, who he might need to form an alliance in future governments.

“We will continue to push through the Conversion Bill,” Livni wrote in a post on Facebook. “If it is not advanced in the Cabinet, we will advance it in the Knesset with liberal partners, those who are not afraid of the ultra-Orthodox and want to enable young people that live here and serve in the army to realize their strong desire to convert, marry and live here with dignity.”

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