The legal age for marriage could be raised to 18, according to a bill approved for government support by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

The initiative, proposed by MK Yariv Levin (Likud) and Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud), would raise the current legal marriage age by one year, if it passes a preliminary vote and three readings in the Knesset.

MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) proposed an almost identical bill, which was not discussed by the Ministerial Committee on Sunday, as it had rejected it last year. Zoabi attempted to resubmit the legislation to the committee, but it refused to accept it again.

Both Zoabi’s and Levin’s proposals will be brought to a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Tuesday. Zoabi said she hopes the two bills will be combined.

The current minimum age for marriage, 17, was legislated in 1950 and has since remained unchanged due to opposition by haredi and Arab parties.

According to Levin, in tribal and traditional societies, such as Beduin tribes, young women are forced to get married and are seen as property passed from father to groom.

Such young brides are often unable to finish high school or continue their education, which limits their career options and ability to escape poverty.

“This is a historic step that will fix an injustice done to minors, mostly females, who marry young,” Levin said. “Should the bill pass, it will save thousands of young women from being forced into marriage, poverty and domestic violence and give them an equal opportunity to start their lives as they wish.”

Zoabi’s bill was sent to the Ministerial Committee along with a letter of support from 26 women’s organizations, representing many sectors of society, including Israeli Arabs and national-religious Jews.

According to the letter, 17,447 girls under age 18 were married from 2000 to 2008. Of those girls, 2,042 were under age 17.

Last week, the Belz hassidic sect held a party with thousands of revelers for the oldest grandson of Rabbi Yissaschar Dov Rokeach, the Belz rebbe, who was engaged at age 17.

MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism), the representative of the Belz hassidic sect in the Knesset, had no comment as to how the legislation would affect the impending nuptials in the rabbinic dynasty.

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