A coalition agreement signed last week between the Likud Party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction promises to dismantle a raft of legislation enacted in the last two years that chipped away at several longstanding entitlements enjoyed by the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, community. Shas, the Sephardic haredi party, signed its own coalition agreement with Likud this week that will cement the power of religious parties in the next government.
Led by the Yesh Atid party, the last government passed laws to include haredim in Israel’s mandatory military draft and encourage the teaching of math and English in government-funded haredi schools. The government, which did not include the haredi parties, also allowed dozens of municipal Orthodox rabbis to perform conversions, vastly increasing the number of conversion courts from the four controlled by the haredim. Other laws cut subsidies to haredi yeshivas and large families, many of whom are haredi.
The Likud-UTJ agreement promises to repeal the conversion decision, increase subsidies to yeshivas and large families, and relieve haredi schools of the obligation to teach secular subjects. The agreement also gives the incoming defense minister sole authority to decide whether to implement the draft law, effectively allowing him to choose not to enforce it. A UTJ lawmaker will head the powerful Knesset Finance Committee, while Shas will control the Religious Services Ministry, which handles most religion-state policies.However earlier this week, ahead of the new Knesset taking over, Israel's Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein told the High Court of Justice that the government will no longer fine restaurant owners who display religious certification from private organizations rather than from the Chief Rabbinate. Times of Israel reported yesterday that the move comes in a case brought on behalf of two Jerusalem restaurants by the Reform Movement's Center for Religious Action. The restaurants will still not be able to advertise themselves as "kosher," but only as having a private certification.