During the failed coalition talks last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to an ultra-Orthodox demand to allow for gender segregation in public spaces, the Kan public broadcaster reported on Monday.
A leaked draft of the Likud’s agreement with the Haredi United Torah Judaism party stated that “within 90 days the government will amend the law in such a way that it will be permissible to provide public services, public study sessions and public events in which men and women are separated. This separation will not constitute discrimination according to the law.”
The draft agreement also barred individuals from filing a civil suit against municipal organizers of such events on the grounds of gender discrimination.
Ultra-Orthodox groups have pressed in the past to have gender segregated events or facilities, like public transport, but the moves have been knocked down by the courts, which ruled it constituted discrimination.
Responding to the report, Likud issued a statement saying that the agreement on the matter had not been finalized and that Netanyahu had sought during the coalition talks to soften the demand of Shas, UTJ, and the Union of Right Wing parties on issues of religion and state.
The Yisrael Beytenu party, which refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition by last week’s deadline, initiating snap elections scheduled for September, said that the Kan report provided further proof that the Likud leader “yielded to all the Haredi demands in the coalition negotiations.”
“The cancellation of the prohibition on gender segregation is another step in transforming the State of Israel into a halacha (religious law) state,” Avigdor Liberman’s party added.
The report came just hours after Netanyahu pushed back against comments by his hardline political ally and aspiring justice minister Bezalel Smotrich, who had called for the Israeli justice system to adhere to Jewish religious law.
“The State of Israel will not be a halacha [Jewish religious law] state,” Netanyahu tweeted, amid an uproar over Smotrich’s remarks.