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After blunder, Knesset gives initial ok to bill for rabbinical court reform

Speaker killed bill to loosen Haredi grip on courts earlier this month when he accidentally voted against it; on Monday the coalition passed it in its first plenum reading

A plenary session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 14, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A plenary session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 14, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset on Monday night gave an initial okay to a bill to reform the system for appointing rabbinical court judges, 12 days after a previous attempt to pass it failed after the Knesset speaker accidentally voted against it.

The bill, intended to loosen the Haredi grip over rabbinical courts, passed in its first plenum reading, 59 to 51. It will now go to committee before returning to the plenum for second and third readings.

The bill would expand the panel that chooses rabbinical judges to include more representatives from the government and more female representatives.

Earlier this month the bill was up for its third and final reading when Speaker Mickey Levy accidentally voted “no,” leaving it with a 51-51 tie. Levy attempted to get special permission to change his vote after realizing his mistake, but the Knesset’s legal adviser ruled that he could not cast another ballot and the vote would stand.

Likud MK Yariv Levin blasted the reintroduced bill on Monday, asserting that it was intended to broaden the panel simply “in order to arrange jobs” for associates of coalition officials. “This bill is shameful and sets a precedent that I’m afraid Israel and Israelis will pay for dearly,” he said.

MK Israel Eichler of United Torah Judaism claims the bill was part of “a war on Judaism and religion” being waged by the coalition.

The coalition’s Elazar Stern, meanwhile, said the bill “will boost the standing of rabbinical courts, which is important to us all.”

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