The Knesset's Law Committee on Wednesday approved a NIS 600 registration fee for individuals wanting to engage in civil unions, paving the way for the implementation of the law in the next few days.

The law will permit non-Jewish Israelis, or citizens defined by the State as lacking religious denomination, to have a civil marriage and be recognized as a married couple by the State.

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Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, who initiated the legislation, said after the committee's meeting that the law solves a problem for thousands of non-Jewish Israeli citizens who until now could not marry legally in Israel and would have to travel to Cyprus or other countries to do so.

"This is the first step to solving one problem, but I intend to see this proposed law through to its conclusion, as laid out to the Knesset, and ask for the civil union to be extended to any person who desires it, not just those without an officially defined religion," said Rotem.

Yizhar Hess, CEO of the Conservative Movement said in response to the Knesset's decision Wednesday, "Not with ease, but in honesty, we wish to congratulate MK David Rotem on the Law Committee's decision this morning. The fact that in the State of Israel there is now an official role to manage the registration of civil marriages will pave the way for - and for this we are fighting - an expansion of the civil unions law to include all those who wish to marry not through the Chief Rabbinate. Currently, and absurdly, only those who can show a certificate saying that they are 'without denomination' can benefit from the law, but we will fight to change this."

"I'm not sure if he meant to do it, but MK Rotem built the framework for the establishment of civil marriage in Israel," said Hess.

The Knesset first passed a limited version of the civil unions law in March.

Opponents of the measure have expressed concern that it would increase the power of the Chief Rabbinate, by extending it the right to weigh in on whether or not an Israeli citizen listed as “without religion” was actually religionless. The bill would only permit citizens without religion to marry other citizens without religion, a tiny percentage of those seeking to marry without the oversight of the Chief Rabbinate.

Currently, Israelis may be recognized as civily married if they are civily married overseas, and then apply for recognition of their status by the Interior Ministry upon their return to Israel.

Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.

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