A significant portion of Israel Beiteinu's voters believe that the pending Civil Union Bill aimed at easing marriage restrictions on Israeli citizens not considered halachicly Jewish falls far short of addressing the core problems faced by some 300,000 people who cannot get married here, The Jerusalem Post learned Thursday.
According to a study conducted in recent weeks by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice and the Israel Women's Network, 44 percent of those who voted for the immigrant party, which pushed civil marriage as a central part of its platform, said they were extremely disappointed with the bill currently moving through the Knesset because, if passed, it would only allow civil unions between two people not considered Jewish. It would not enable a marriage between someone not recognized as Jewish and someone who is.
Carried out by Ma'agar Mohot, the telephone survey used a sample of some 508 Israeli adults, and these specific statistics pertain to those who said they had voted for Israel Beiteinu.
Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, who chairs the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and who is sponsoring the legislation, told the Post Thursday that he was aware his bill did not solve the entire problem.
However, he said the bill "will help solve the difficulties encountered by some people."
According to Rotem, "there are a few organizations who believe that it is all or nothing. However, we have been in this situation for many years and nothing has been done to change it. I want to deal with this in stages, tackle each problem one by one. Once this law is passed, then we will move on to additional ones."
Rotem's bill has already passed its first reading in the Knesset and should be coming up for second and third readings in the coming weeks.
Estimates put at more than 300,000 the number of Israelis, mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who have full citizenship but cannot get married here because of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate's control over such life-cycle events. In most cases, the rabbinate only approves those considered halachicly Jewish to marry other Jews. Rotem's legislation will solve the problem for some of those currently unable to get married.
Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, said, however, that if passed, the law would "push the struggle toward complete civil unions two steps backward."
"There needs to be a complete and serious reform of civil marriage options in this country in order to eliminate the feeling that some people are second-class citizens," he said, adding, "This study clearly shows that Israel Beiteinu's voters no longer accept the direction of their party on this issue."
In addition to the data focusing on Israel Beiteinu and the pending legislation, the survey also found that more than half (57%) of the public supported the need for civil marriages in Israel.
The Jerusalem Institute of Justice, together with several other nonprofit organizations, held a conference Thursday afternoon to present the study's findings and reemphasize the need for civil marriages in Israel.