The Schnitt Committee recommendation to the justice minister, which calls for the overturning of the law granting mothers custody of children up to the age of 6 in divorce cases, may appear to be egalitarian, but actually goes against everything that is proper and right and decent.
Mothers and fathers are supposed to share the responsibility and obligations toward their children equitably, but a few rights - including being the default choice for having primary custody - do not have to be equitable. That's because biological facts, along with the discriminatory cultural structure, make it easier for men to start a new and better-grounded family after splitting up with their partners.
The principle of unequal investment is at play here. The investment principle is supposed to guide us in everything connected to the issue of parenthood, in the footsteps of King Solomon. Even in a world in which radical capitalism prevails, different investments yield different rights; even in the rough-and-tumble business world, the partner who invests more gets first dibs. This is supposed to be self-evident.
In Israel, regrettably, there are tremendous income gaps between men and women. One of the primary explanations given by employers to justify these gaps is the issue of parental investment. Such explanations express a great deal of self-righteousness, especially when you add them to the state's neglect of everything connected to subsidizing day care.
"Women will take maternity leave," many employers reason. "They'll take days off from work when the child gets sick. They'll also leave work early, in a country in which there is no suitable day-care system." Sometimes there are also comments about PMS. Thus many women are blocked from advancement, and it is virtually impossible for them to make their way to the world of power and money - the only world that counts nowadays.
Rather than soaking up the spirit of Solomonic wisdom, the Schnitt Committee recommendation is leading toward an Israeli reality that not only refuses to condemn a rich man stealing from a poor man, but encourages it. Two unequal parties will stand before the seat of justice. One side will be the father, who, due to his low-level parental investment and the sociocultural and economic structure, will generally be better off financially. As a result of the same structure, he is also liable to be accompanied by a young woman, with whose help he will be able to provide the child from the previous marriage with a new family. On the other side will be the mother, who will typically be poorer than the father and exhausted from the Sisyphean task of juggling work, home, child care and the diet that's supposed to help her meet male standards for women.
Self-righteously claiming to have the child's best interest in mind, many judges will hand the child over to the father. After all, it is unfortunately clear to many people that in the survivalist world of capitalism, it is better for the child to be with the well-off and strong side, especially since the father generally has a better chance of having a new family that is considered more normative than one headed by the poor single mother.
The Schnitt Committee recommendation is even more significant than the justification of the rich man's theft from the poor man. The residents of Sodom were big believers in "what's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine." The colonial world of thinking to which the Israeli land of no limits has sunk will push parenthood down the slope leading to Sodom.
The writer is the author of books including "The Messiah's Donkey."
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