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>JN Oct. 15, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 188
Israel Releases Tax Revenue to Palestinians
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel has agreed to release the remaining $57 million in tax
revenue it has been withholding from the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the transfer,
saying the Palestinian Authority had taken some "first, positive
steps" in fighting terrorism.
Israel had stopped the required transfer of the tax money to put
pressure on the Authority to fight militant Palestinian groups.
This is the third and final installment of withheld funds. The
prime minister said he hopes the move helps create a positive
atmosphere for peace talks which resumed last week.
Meanwhile, Israel's President, Ezer Weizman, who just returned
from the United States, says President Clinton will soon invite
Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to Washington
to try to move the peace process forward.
Netanyahu is reported to be angry at Weizman for reportedly telling
US officials to put pressure on him to make concessions in the
peace process. Weizman's job is largely ceremonial, but he is
politically outspoken, leading to occasional criticism -- including
this time -- that he oversteps his limited role.
Religious MKs Demand Two Laws
By Arutz 7
Representatives of the religious lobby in the Knesset met with
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday, demanding the passage of
two laws: the Conversion Law, as well as a law that will prevent
Reform representatives from sitting on local religious councils.
They warn that if these two laws are not passed with all due haste,
they will resign from the coalition.
Finance Minister Yaakov Ne'eman, head of a committee appointed by
the prime minister to formulate a compromise that will be
acceptable to Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, also took part in
the meeting. Exerting counter-pressure on Netanyahu is the Third
Way party, whose members say they will resign from the coalition if
the religious demands are met.
The Ne'eman Commission is about ready to publicize its conclusions.
According to unofficial information published, its recommendations
will enable Reform and Conservative rabbis to perform marriage
ceremonies, but witnesses to the ceremony on behalf of the Chief
Rabbinate will supervise. Conversions will be carried out only by
the Chief Rabbinate, but the preparatory classes will be held in
schools run jointly by representatives of all three movements.
Divorce law will remain under exclusive control of the Chief
Arutz-7 correspondent Ariel Kahanah has learned that the guiding
principle in the compromise was official Orthodox recognition of
the other streams in exchange for no concessions on Halakhic
(Jewish law) requirements. "As any student of Halakhah knows,"
said religious MK Alex Lubotsky (Third Way), "the Halakhic status
of a wedding depends on the witnesses, and not on the one who
conducts the ceremony."
If the two witnesses, who themselves must be fit for testimony (as
opposed to relatives, for instance), can testify that the ceremony
was performed according to Jewish law, then the wedding is "kosher"
according to Orthodox standards.
Lubotsky said, "There is a chance here for a historic compromise
among the three streams, at least in Israel. The proposed
Conversion Law will gain nothing for the Orthodox, because it
merely demands that conversions carried out in Israel be Orthodox;
it can be easily circumvented by conducting Reform classes here,
and then simply flying the candidate to London for a quick Reform
conversion, and the deed is done. The Orthodox thereby gain nothing by
passing this law except to upset most of world Jewry.
"On the other hand, the recommendations of the Ne'eman committee
allow for only one path, one gate to Judaism, namely via Orthodoxy,
with the participation of Reform and Conservative in [non-Halakhic
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said that this law, rather
than uniting the Jewish people, could further exacerbate the
tensions amongst them. Other sources in the religious parties said
that the committee was established in order to find an agreed-upon
solution for the conversion issue, but instead side-tracked to
another topic and granted a standing to Reform and Conservative in
"There is no guarantee that this 'foot in the door' granted to
Reform and Conservative could lead to further erosion of the status
of the Chief Rabbinate in the future," said one.
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