Yisrael Beiteinu Pushing Bill for Regional Marriage Registration

Coalition chairman MK Zeev Elkin is considering allowing members of the coalition freedom to vote according to their conscience on the measure.

Opposition parties Kadima, Labor and Meretz are expected to support a bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu for the establishment of regions for marriage registration, should the law be brought to the Knesset for a vote on Wednesday. Last week, Yisrael Beiteinu threatened to bring the bill to the parliament even if the government decides to oppose it.

Yesterday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, under pressure from the religious parties, decided to defer discussion of the proposed law, sponsored by MK Faina Kirshenbaum. So long as the government does not expressly declare support for the bill, members of the coalition will be expected to oppose it should it be brought to the Knesset. Coalition leaders, however, are likely to allow their colleagues to support the bill. Coalition chairman MK Zeev Elkin, who has cooperated with Kirshenbaum in framing the proposal, is considering allowing members of the coalition freedom to vote according to their conscience on the measure, thereby suspending the rule of coalition discipline in this case.

Faina Kirshenbaum

Opposition parties are expected to help Yisrael Beiteinu legislate this bill. Kadima MKs claimed yesterday that Kirshenbaum's proposal is similar to one sponsored in the past by one of its members, MK Otniel Schneller; thus, the Kadima MKs say, there is no reason why they should oppose the present proposal.

Labor faction chairman MK Eitan Cabel estimated yesterday that his party will support the proposal. "The principle of opening of regions for marriage registration is acceptable to the party's chairman, Shelly Yachimovich; and we will bring up the proposal for discussion and approval at a party meeting."

Meretz chairperson MK Zahava Gal-On said yesterday that she intends to support the proposal, and will take steps in the future to expand the registration authority of non-Orthodox rabbis.

The law proposed by Kirshenbaum fulfills one of the election promises made by Yisrael Beiteinu. Should the proposal pass on a first reading in the Knesset, Kirshenbaum will insist that it be handled by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chaired by her party's MK David Rotem, rather than by the Knesset's Interior Committee, which is controlled by Shas.

Yisrael Beiteinu parliamentarians hope that the bill will not be buried in a protracted legislative process. Should it be passed, the law would significantly change marital status affairs in Israel. It would also provide a "backdoor" solution to disputes surrounding the viability of conversions conducted in the IDF. Under the law, soldiers who are converted in disputed IDF procedures would be able to register to be married by moderate rabbinical authorities who accept them as Jews.

In addition, the bill would enhance competition among rabbis, who would vie for couples who intend on being married and are shopping for services that bring hundreds of shekels into a rabbinate's coffers. Persons involved in the bill's legislation say that its enactment would lead to moderation in demands made by rabbis of young couples.