It offends my sensibilities that Israel, as a state, does not allow numerous Jews to marry as they wish, or to be considered Jewish by the State. The minimum standards for “Jewishness” have traditionally been set by the Orthodox establishment with the blessing of the Israeli government. It is this partnership which has allowed and enforced the egregious discrimination against secular Jews that, for example, compels them to serve in the IDF and risk their lives, while those who identify themselves as devoutly Orthodox can evade service by “studying Torah.”
A number of years ago the Conservative and Reform movements in the US made a big push to assist their sister organizations in Israel to receive more credibility and improve the legal status of their members. Large portions of the active Jewish organized community in the US were asked to apply pressure on the Israeli government, while a simultaneous push within Israel also gained momentum. For a short while it began to appear that this mobilized effort would achieve some success and there was talk of accepting Reform and Conservative conversions that were done in Israel.
A compromise of sorts was struck whereby the Orthodx agreed to consider conversions made in Israel by a joint institute, but overall, the status quo remained unchanged.
Secular Jews received new hope when Shinui won 15 seats in the previous elections and promised to restrain some of the Orthodox influences upon Israeli society.
Years later, Shinui has proven itself quite ineffective (alternatively, the Orthodox have proven themselves firmly entrenched), and as Sharon indicates that he’ll fire any Shinui ministers who vote against the budget while he simultaneously holds talks with religious party leaders, we have to assume that Shinui will not be around in the Cabinet for much longer.
Rabbi Ismar Schorch, Chancellor of the NY JTS, and a well respected figure in the Conservative movement speaks about discimination against Jews that exists in the Jewish State.
Update: Shinui Ministers have just been sacked by Sharon.