The Israeli cabinet approved a controversial conversion reform bill, aiming to make it easier for tens of thousands of Israelis to become Jewish, Xinhua reported.
The bill, which was revised from the previous Knesset ( parliament) session and introduced by MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), includes the establishment of special conversion courts which would make the conversion process more accessible for non-Jews Israelis to become Jewish.
Until now, the Chief Rabbinate, who is the spiritual, orthodox Jewish authority in Israel, had jurisdiction over the conversion processes, with a defined amount of rabbis holding the monopoly over who can become Jewish.
However, the bill will increase the number of rabbis to the list of people authorized to perform conversions, which is vehemently opposed by ultra-Orthodox parties as it would end the monopoly of the orthodox rabbinates over conversion processes.
Hatnua's chairwoman and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni pushed for the approval of the bill, whereas Netanyahu previously objected to it, taking the ultra-Orthodox' side. All ministers voted in favor of the reform except for Housing Minister Uri Ariel.
"This is good news for converts," Minister Stern said on Sunday. "We will work as quickly as possible to apply the decision and establish panels that will bring a new atmosphere to the masses who are conversion candidates, and especially to those who have already lost faith in the conversion process," he added.
After the approval of the bill, Chief Israeli Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef issued a statement saying that "it was not accepted" by the chief rabbinate and that he would convene a meeting of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate to discuss further actions in response to the new bill, the Jerusalem Post reported.