Cabinet meeting
Photo: AFP
Minister Herzog. Bill's initiator
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Deliberation on rabbinical court bill delayed

Labor seeks to impede bill proposed by social affairs minister looking to expand of rabbinical courts' jurisdiction, but issue removed from government's agenda at last minute

The discussion on a bill extending the rabbinical courts' authorities was removed from the cabinet's agenda Sunday.


Labor Party ministers, led by Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, opposed a particular clause in the bill which seeks to expand the powers of the rabbinical courts in question.


The controversial bill, proposed by Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog and Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila, maintains that a couple which has signed a prenuptial agreement can contest one of the clauses contained therein in a rabbinical court, provided that both parties agree to this arrangement, or, conversely, one member of the divorcing couple is Jewish. 


Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon filed an petition last week with the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to contest this bill.


Herzog has acknowledged that the bill ought to be amended; mainly in order to limit the rabbinical court's authority on matters that do not relate to spousal relations. The minister does maintain, however, that this is an historic bill which is endorsed by women’s’ rights movements.


Many women’s rights groups, conversely, have objected to the bill, noting that it can severely hamper women’s rights in the guise of mediation and alternative adjudication.


Herzog’s bill infuriated many Labor Party members, including MK Shelly Yacimovich and MK Ophir Pines-Paz, who claimed that it could severely hamper Israel’s judicial system and its status quo, effectively turning Israel into a religious halacha state. Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit also expressed their objection to the proposed bill.


Bill upsets Israeli judicial system

MK Pines called on Barak and other Labor Part members to work to remove Herzog’s bill from the public agenda. Defense Minister Barak is expected to inform Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that this bill runs counter to agreed upon parliamentary arrangements with the Labor Party, and serves to severely upset Israel’s justice system.


Senior Labor officials stated that “Barak must not allow the State of Israel to be run by religious halacha law.”


Minister Shalom Simhon, who was asked by Barak to appeal the bill with the with the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, stated that “this bill will not get very far in attaining legal sanction, seeing as it upsets the system of checks and balances in Israel.”


The agriculture minister further noted that “Herzog wanted to resolve longstanding issues relating to marriage and divorce, but the religious factions in Israel have their own agenda vis a vie this bill. All parties involved understand that this bill is problematic, and I can only hope that the problems surrounding it can be ironed out.”


The Labor Party expressed it staunch opposition to the bill, noting the Herzog is “making dirty deals with the prime ministers, Shas, and Chief Sephradi Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar.”


Officials in the Prime Mister’s Office stated that they hoped that the Labor Part will ultimately withdraw its petition to deliberate on the bill at hand and amend some of the clauses contained therein.


Sources close to Olmert noted that he does not want to oppose Shas at the moment, and that he believes the bill to be “a sound piece of legislation that makes necessary compromises.” 


Shas does not plan to give up on the law, and party chairman, Minister Eli Yishai, is expected to pressure the government to discuss the bill as soon as possible and bring to the Knesset.


"The internal quarrelling inside the Labor Party are not our business," a Shas official said Sunday morning after the government decided to postpone the discussion.


פרסום ראשון: 02.24.08, 13:09
 new comment
This will delete your current comment