BAYIT YEHUDI leader Naftali Bennett speaks at a campaign launch event for party candidate Ayelet Shaked in Tel Aviv December 30.
(photo credit: BAYIT YEHUDI SPOKESMAN)
As the dust cleared following the bitter and rancorous coalition negotiations between Bayit Yehudi and the Likud, details of the deal began to emerge on Thursday, while the allocation of positions within the national- religious party also became clearer.
As well as obtaining the Education Ministry for party chairman MK Naftali Bennett, the Justice Ministry for MK Ayelet Shaked, and the Agriculture Ministry for MK Uri Ariel, the party also received the deputy defense minister position, which is likely to be filled by MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, while MK Bezalel Smotrich will likely become deputy speaker.
The party also gained the chairmanship of the important Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which MK Nissan Slomiansky is poised to receive. MK Moti Yogev is likely to regain his place on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, while freshman MK Yinon Magal will be made the Bayit Yehudi faction chairman.
As was reported on Thursday, Shaked as justice minister will have the chairmanship of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and the Judicial Appointments Committee.
Along with various portfolios and governmental positions, Bayit Yehudi also inserted several clauses into its coalition agreement stipulating support for various pieces of legislation.
Included among these is support for the controversial NGO law, legislation that would restrict the ability of NGOs to gain tax exemptions on donations from foreign governments, ostensibly aimed at foreign-funded groups that criticize Israel’s human rights records but whose critics say are politically motivated.
Other measures reportedly included in the Bayit Yehudi agreement are a budget increase of NIS 1 billion for raising soldiers’ pay in the third year of mandatory service; an increase in funding for the Education Ministry of NIS 630 million; increasing disabled access in educational institutions; and providing armored protection for transportation in Judea and Samaria.
One significant concession made by Bayit Yehudi is its accession to demands from the Likud party that the Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee be removed from the justice minister’s portfolio. The chairmanship of this committee will go to a Likud minister, although it is unclear who exactly will be given the post.
Bayit Yehudi and the Likud came in for significant criticism for this step from women’s rights groups and other quarters, who accused them of abandoning the rabbinical judges appointments process to the haredi parties, which, they fear, will adversely affect the ability of women, and some men, to obtain divorces from recalcitrant spouses.
The Mavoi Satum divorce rights group accused Bennett of abandoning the issue, and called on citizens to cease marrying through the Chief Rabbinate, and to stop using state religious services in general, to avoid potential divorce complications in the future.
“We, who deal daily with the injustices of the rabbinical courts and the severe injury that the rabbinical courts do to human and ethical values, will not reconcile with this new reality which is poised to take place here,” said its director, Batya Kahana-Dror.
“Bennett does not care about these issues. Bayit Yehudi did not back down on anything apart from the chairmanship of this committee, and Bennett has betrayed the values of the national-religious sector,” she said.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On also voiced strident criticism of the likely dominance of the haredi parties over the rabbinical judges appointments process, and said that “there is no chance that we will allow [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to sacrifice the personal lives of women and our rights to equality in marriage and divorce without extortion and humiliation, without us fighting you with every tool at our disposal.”
Bayit Yehudi declined to respond on the record to the criticism leveled at the party, although a source within the party alleged that Netanyahu had insisted on keeping the chairmanship of the rabbinical judges appointments committee for the Likud and would not authorize a deal without it.
Several requests to the Likud party for comment were not answered.
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