Delayed vote on divisive rabbis bill to take place tomorrow; rebel MKs to be replaced

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee announces that it will hold a vote tomorrow morning on a controversial bill that would dramatically change how municipal rabbis are chosen, only hours after it postponed the vote due to fierce opposition to the legislation by both coalition and opposition lawmakers.

Hebrew media reports say coalition whip Ofir Katz has decided to unilaterally substitute two new lawmakers for committee members and Likud MKs Moshe Saada and Tally Gotliv, who have vocally refused to support the controversial measure.

According to Hebrew news reports, Gotliv had initially agreed to be replaced by another lawmaker for today’s aborted vote but ultimately backtracked, reiterating that she would participate and oppose the bill.

Earlier today, announcing the cancellation of the vote due to insufficient support within the committee following a heated debate, Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Simcha Rothman lashed out at Saada and Gotliv.

Rothman said that coalition legislators should remember that they are “acting as part of a framework” and that it is necessary to compromise “in order to preserve a unified government during a war.”

“It would be a shame and disgrace if you remained silent for three months during the waffling over Rafah but were willing to blow everything up over the rabbis law,” he said.

If passed into law, the bill could cost taxpayers tens of millions of shekels annually in salaries for hundreds of new neighborhood rabbis employed by local municipalities.

It would also greatly expand the influence of the Chief Rabbinate and the Religious Services Ministry in the appointment of municipal rabbis at the expense of local authorities — while also eroding the role of women in the process.

Critics of the bill charge that it would benefit the Shas party by providing jobs for its apparatchiks. On Monday evening, Channel 12 reported Shas chairman Aryeh Deri had threatened to bring down the government if it isn’t passed.

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