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Netanyahu backslides on religious reforms

By caving in to ultra-Orthodox demands to cancel religious reforms, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disregards most of the Israeli public, focusing solely on his political survival.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) gestures as he speaks to incoming minister Aryeh Deri, party leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas party, in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem May 13, 2015. Netanyahu's emerging government scraped by its first parliamentary test on Wednesday, paving the way for the new cabinet to be sworn in after two months of difficult coalition building. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1CSJH
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On July 5, about a week and a half after the US Supreme Court rendered its historic decision that single-sex marriage is constitutional, the reverse process began in Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fourth government adopted a series of resolutions that void or emasculate the resolutions taken by Netanyahu’s third government, only a few months ago. The significance of these recent decisions is that the government is taking a giant step backward with everything connected to conversion, enforcing kosher food laws and the treatment of personal status issues such as marriage, divorce and family disputes. By law, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate handles personal status matters and issues kosher certificates to food factories and restaurants. In all of these domains, the government retracted its former, more tolerant resolutions that attempted to promote the more moderate streams in Judaism, and instead it handed victory over to the most conservative sector of Orthodox Judaism, represented by the ultra-Orthodox parties in the Knesset.

The inevitable conclusions regarding the resolutions of Netanyahu’s government are disquieting. While the United States continues its liberal revolution and integration of absolute values of freedom in all spheres of life, Israel is heading in the opposite direction: a state that is more religious and conservative and much less free and liberal. This is a political, demographic, social and moral victory that intensifies the sense of besiegement engulfing Israel’s liberal, left-wing and Tel Aviv elite circles. (Tel Aviv is considered by many as Israel's ''secular capital.'') This process exacerbates the reality of two totally different Jewish "states" that already exist side by side in Israel: the secular one and the religious one. The problem is that the way things look now, these two entities do not exist in mutual coexistence but in reciprocal hostility and mistrust.

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