Children dressed up for Purim.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a rare victory, the opposition defeated the coalition in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday by preventing the passage of a bill that would “put the good of the child” first in custody cases and replace an antiquated law that “encourages divorce.”
Opposition MKs celebrated after the 42 to 41 win via a roll call vote.
“We defeated a bill today that would abandon girls and boys to the wars of divorcing parents,” Zionist Union faction head Merav Michaeli said. “We believe in equality between men and women, but it must be achieved through smart legislation and not by the political tricks of a failing government.”
The so-called “parents and children bill” submitted by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) would annul the current law’s clause that automatically gives mothers custody of children under age six in divorce cases, requiring courts to examine what is good for the child case by case, instead.
According to Kisch, the current law created “an absurd situation in which the legal system does not consider the interests of children of separated parents.” The law has resulted in mothers of fiveyear- olds initiating divorce proceedings, knowing they will receive custody and that the custody agreement will not be reopened after their youngest child turns six, as courts do not want to force children to move twice.
The proposed bill is based on the recommendations of a committee appointed by former justice minister and current Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni and led by Prof. Dan Schnitt, which found that the current law’s wording grants the mother custody of all of a couple’s children under six, in order to keep them together. The Schnitt Committee recommended eliminating the clause in 2008.
Kisch called the coalition’s defeat “a Pyrrhic victory for the opposition.” He said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked would propose and easily pass the government’s version of his bill within two months “to ensure children would be defended.”
“In the air force, we learn from mistakes and move on,” said Kisch, who was an IAF fighter pilot. “It is good that we learned our lessons ahead of the votes on the budget.”
Kisch praised Bayit Yehudi for punishing MK Moti Yogev, who absented himself from the vote.
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said because Yogev violated coalition discipline, he would be suspended from the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and its subcommittees, and that if he voted against the coalition again, he would be permanently banned from the committee.
His bills will not be brought to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation for the rest of the Knesset’s winter session.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.