Meet the MK: Eli Ben-Dahan
The Bayit Yehudi lawmaker plans to propose a bill that would allow men
refusing to grant a divorce to be extradited back to Israel.
Bayit Yehudi MK Eli Ben-Dahan Photo: Courtesy Bayit Yehudi
Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, who placed fourth on Bayit Yehudi’s electoral list, is
perhaps best known for his 21-year tenure as director of the Rabbinical Court
system in Israel. He took up this position in 1989, and successfully separated
the rabbinic courts from the Ministry of Religious Services, turning it into an
During his time as director of the rabbinic courts,
Dahan promoted legislation to enact punitive sanctions on husbands who refuse to
give their wives a bill of divorce, worked to streamline the divorce process and
promoted the introduction of female advocates into the Rabbinical Court
Name: Eli Ben-Dahan
Party: Bayit Hayehudi
Aliya: Made aliya with his family from Casablanca, Morocco in
1956 at two years old, and grew up in Beersheba
Family status: Married with nine
Profession before becoming MK: Director of the rabbinical courts
network for 21 years
Why did you decide to enter politics?
I thought that I
could still contribute more. I’m young enough not to want to sit at home and I’m
old enough to have enough experience to allow me to make a significant and
valuable contribution to society.
What are the first three bills you plan
The first bill I want to introduce is one that would allow for any
man who flees the country because he doesn’t want to give his wife a “get” (bill
of divorce) to be extradited from foreign countries back to Israel. Other areas
where I will introduce legislation will be in the realm of developing the
country’s periphery, as well as improving the relationship between religion and
What was your most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
Just meeting people on the campaign of all backgrounds who were so happy to meet
with us and talk. We spoke with regular people all around the country and this
was the most interesting part of the campaign for me.
This Knesset has a
record high number of women and religious people. How do you think this will
affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it brings?
It’s hard to say
exactly what impact this will have.
What I know is that we need to have
better cooperation with the religious parties, but I think this will only be
possible after the coalition negotiations are over and then we’ll see better
relations, God willing. Of course, it’s important that we increase cooperation
with all parties too.
Do you think haredim and Arabs should perform
military or national service, and if so, how should the state enforce it?
party has said before, someone who is learning in yeshiva and fulfilling his
obligations must be allowed to continue studying.
But naturally, the
number of people learning seriously as they are supposed to is small and many
students stop learning as they are required to after the first few years of
being in yeshiva.
Many get married and have other obligations, and
someone not learning cannot remain in yeshiva and be protected by yeshiva. It’s
We do need to integrate Arabs into national service as
well. I’m not sure that the IDF wants them in the army but there’s no reason at
all why they shouldn’t do national or civilian service.
Do you support a
religious- Zionist chief candidate, such as Rabbi David Stav, for the Chief
Absolutely. Bayit Yehudi has established a committee to evaluate the
candidacy of three national religious rabbis who are seeking the Ashkenazi chief
rabbi position and one candidate who is running for the Sephardi chief rabbi
It’s important to get a national religious rabbi back in this
position because someone not committed to Zionism cannot relate to the wider
community. We need someone who sees the State of Israel as “reishit tzmihat
geulateinu” [the first sprouting of our redemption], and sees in the state
something of religious meaning. It is hard for a rabbi who is not national
religious to partner in this project.
What do you think can be cut in the
budget, which must be passed within 45 days of the government’s swearing in?
security budget can certainly be cut, there’s no reason in the world not to look
at that. There should also be cuts within ministerial departments, but higher
taxes on the wealthy would also help reduce the budget deficit.
your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian
We oppose a Palestinian state completely. We’re 20 years on and there’s
no give and take. There’s just give from our side while we’ve never gotten
anything from them. Frankly, it seems that the maximum we can offer them is less
than the minimum they are willing to accept.
Former prime ministers Ehud
Barak and Ehud Olmert both made very generous offers and yet they were still
rejected by the Palestinians, so it seems like we’re simply playing chess with
As our party advocates, we need to take full control of Area C
[of the West Bank] and impose Israeli law there.
I don’t think the
international community will have any serious influence [on Israel] if we do
this. When we annexed east Jerusalem and the Golan [Heights] the US protested
and halted support for a while, but eventually they understood that we’re a
sovereign state and in the end there was no alternative but for us to maintain
control over the Golan. The rest of Judea and Samaria will remain under
Palestinian civil and security control but there won’t be a permanent solution
or a sovereign state.