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Netanyahu gets reprieve as Reform Jews halt suit

Trying to avoid a rift between Israel and American Jews, Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders agreed Tuesday to suspend for three months legal action seeking the formal recognition of their movements in Israel.

The turnaround gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a reprieve from what appeared to be an inevitable collision with American Jews who provide crucial political support for Israel in Washington.Netanyahu has been under pressure from three Orthodox parties in his coalition to fend off efforts by the Reform and Conservative movements to win recognition in Israel with lawsuits over the right to carry out conversions and be represented on religious councils.

Reform and Conservative Jews are predominant in the United States, but in Israel, religious affairs are controlled by Orthodox rabbis.

Netanyahu welcomed today's decision of the Reform and Conservative movements. "If I was perplexed and disturbed yesterday by the decision not to enter into this discussion, I am as relieved today as I was perplexed yesterday," he said.

The three Orthodox parties have said they would enact legislation counteracting any court ruling if the Reform and Conservative movements went ahead with the lawsuits.

The Orthodox have the political power to bring down Netanyahu's government.