A small group of coalition MKs have banded together to create an unofficial
forum for matters of religion and state in order to put and end to the numerous
disputes that have arisen within the government over such issues.
arguments over coalition support for chief rabbi candidates, reforms to the
provision of religious services and military burial for non-Jews have led to
mutual recrimination and sniping within the government, as well as tit-fortat
vetoes against legislation proposed by the different coalition
The new forum, proposed by Deputy Religious Services Minister
Eli Ben-Dahan, will now convene on a regular basis to deliberate on legislation
as well as other possible action requiring government attention relating to
religion and state.
Along with Ben-Dahan, the other MKs in the forum are
Education Minister Shai Piron, Hatnua MK Elazar Stern and Deputy Transportation
Minister Tzipi Hotovely of Likud.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post,
Ben-Dahan said that the formation of the forum was an important step in
addressing the complicated issues regarding religion in the country as well as
harmonizing coalition relations on what can be particularly knotty
Although the new forum will help smooth out some of the
concerns requiring government action, disagreement is still likely on some of
the more controversial issues such as civil marriage, which is supported by Yesh
Atid but opposed by Bayit Yehudi.
And Ben-Dahan noted that the coalition
parties were not giving up their right to veto legislation on matters of
religion and state, a clause that Bayit Yehudi insisted be part of its coalition
agreement with Likud Beytenu.
“I hope we’ll be able to reach agreements
on the issues, but if that’s not possible then we will still make use of our
veto,” he told the Post.
Regarding civil marriage, the deputy minister
said that Bayit Yehudi was still firmly opposed but said it might be possible to
reach an arrangement that satisfies at least some of the demands of MKs and
independent organizations advocating its institution.
After less than
four months of the current government, there have been some particularly bitter
rows between coalition partners.
Elazar Stern wanted to pass legislation
to increase the size of the chief rabbi electoral committee and reserve 20
percent of its places for women, but the bill was vetoed by Bayit Yehudi, in
large part due to the opposition of several rabbis associated with the
In revenge, Hatnua stymied several proposed reforms for the
provision of religious services devised by Ben-Dahan.
The most recent
incident, which was the proximate cause of the establishment of the new forum,
was a dispute over military burial for non- Jews.
legislation to change the current practice whereby non-Jewish soldiers are
buried apart from their Jewish comrades in military cemeteries, as stipulated by
Jewish law, although they are nevertheless interred in the same section of the
Bayit Yehudi objected, however, and a vote on the bill in the
cabinet was postponed pending further deliberation.
The members of the
new forum are hopeful that a compromise will be reached on this matter.