Justice minister irks Bayit Yehudi with plan for ‘revolution’ in religious services

Naftali Bennett, who is the religious services minister, made a point of not criticizing his political ally, Finance Minister Yair Lapid.

October 16, 2013 03:04
1 minute read.
Naftali Bennett.

Naftali Bennett 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Bayit Yehudi officials expressed frustration Tuesday with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s plans for a “revolution” in the country’s religious services.

Party leader Naftali Bennett, who is the religious services minister, made a point of not criticizing his political ally, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, when Lapid spoke of instituting civil marriage and public transportation on Shabbat.

But Livni’s initiatives upset the top officials in Bennett’s party.

Livni’s proposals call for registering couples who cannot be married by the Rabbinate, including those of the same sex and giving them equal rights. She would enable couples to choose where to receive religious services regardless of where they live, and reserve places for women on the committees that elect city rabbis.

The justice minister wants to obligate all couples to sign prenuptial agreements in an effort to prevent husbands from refusing to grant their wives divorces.

Deputy religious services minister Eli Ben-Dahan said that some of Livni’s proposals that she presented as her own were copied from reforms already being undertaken by his ministry and the rest of Livni’s plans were unacceptable to Bayit Yehudi and would likely be vetoed.

“We are glad she found a good model to copy,” a Bayit Yehudi source said.

“Her negotiations with the Palestinians must not be achieving results so she is trying a different field.”

The bill that would give couples choices in religious services has been promoted by Bayit Yehudi since the previous Knesset. Livni vetoed it when it was due to come to a vote. Ben-Dahan has been working on prenuptial agreements that would be encouraged by local rabbinates but not made obligatory.

Bayit Yehudi has its own ideas about how to handle registration for couples that are not permitted to be married in Israel. But the party would veto registration for homosexuals.

The coalition has a forum on matters of religion and state to avoid coalition disputes, but Livni did not present her ideas to the forum before she revealed them to Yediot Aharonot.

“The reforms are not intended to anger but to give couples a chance for them and their children to be recognized by the establishment,” Livni told Channel 2. “I hope the coalition can pass them.”

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