Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party on Wednesday was set to spearhead opposition to a bill encouraging the appointment of female Islamic judges, on the grounds that it would set a legal precedent for the election of female rabbinical judges.
A spokesman for Litzman confirmed that the Haredi party was planning to utilize its veto on religion-state matters, granted as part of coalition agreements, to topple the proposed legislation.
The bill, proposed by Meretz MK Issawi Frej and Joint (Arab) List MKs Zouheir Bahloul and Aida Touma-Sliman, would require those appointing qadis, or Islamic judges, to include at least one woman on the list of nominees. Moreover, in the absence of sufficient candidates for judge positions on the court of appeals, preference will be given to a female candidate to round out the slate.
The legislation further stipulates that the Knesset’s Committee for the Advancement of Women be updated on the appointments, to ensure that the law was fully implemented.
It was set to be brought to a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Wednesday.
In its explanatory text, the bill points to four female Sharia law judges — one Palestinian, one from the UAE, another Egyptian, and one from Malaysia. “The State of Israel, despite its progressiveness in the area of gender equality, has not adopted this,” it said.
The bill received backing in the Ministerial Committee of Legislation, according to the Haaretz daily, including by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home). However, due to the opposition of the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, the coalition members were not expected to support it Wednesday when it comes to a preliminary vote in the Knesset.
Frej told Haaretz that the ultra-Orthodox told him they would oppose it due to fears it would set a precedent for Jewish religious judges, which according to Orthodox tradition, are exclusively male. The bill does not enjoy across-the-board support within the Joint (Arab) List either, with at least three of its more conservative-minded MKs opposed to it, according to the report.
Under Israel’s status quo agreement with the establishment of the State of Israel, the rabbinate governs matters of marriage and divorce for Jewish citizens, in accordance with Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law.