Second time lucky: Knesset passes law for rabbinical court reform

Bill passes 59-54; first attempt by coalition to pass it failed when Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy hit the wrong voting button, leading to a tie

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy seen during a plenary session in Jerusalem, July 26, 2021.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy seen during a plenary session in Jerusalem, July 26, 2021.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The coalition succeeded early Wednesday in passing a law that will reform the system for appointing rabbinical court judges, nearly two weeks after a first attempt to pass it was botched by the Knesset speaker accidentally voting against it.

In a late-night session in the Knesset, the bill passed with 59 lawmakers voting in favor and 54 voting against.

The law expands 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 claimed 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.”

The original defeat was among a string of early setbacks for the government. The coalition, a hodgepodge of eight parties from across the political spectrum, has only a wafer-thin edge of a single seat over the opposition, meaning just one or two Knesset members are needed to torpedo coalition legislative matters. Though only a few weeks old, the government has thus far had to deal with several instances of legislative goals being stymied by a single mutinous faction or lawmaker.

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