Shas is reportedly prepared to accept a bill aimed at extending the powers of the rabbinical courts even though the legislation does not go as far as it wanted, it emerged during a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee in the presence of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann. The legislation has been a bone of contention between Shas and its coalition partners since the beginning of the 17th Knesset. The Knesset State Control Committee met at Amar's office to discuss the latest annual State Comptroller's Report on the functioning of the rabbinical courts. The critical report has sparked parliamentary discussion not only in the State Control Committee but also the Law Committee. On March 18, after negotiating with Shas, Welfare Minister Yitzhak Herzog and Minister-without-Portfolio Ruhama Avraham-Balila presented a bill to the Ministerial Legislation Committee to allow rabbinical courts to rule, in accordance with halachic law, on property disputes between couples after their divorce and on any other property disputes. In both cases, both sides to the dispute must agree to bring the matter to the religious court. The bill was meant, in part, to overcome a High Court decision prohibiting rabbinical courts from arbitrating property disputes between couples after their divorce. However, the bill presented by Herzog and Avraham-Balila went much further, granting the rabbinical courts the right to hand down rulings according to halachic law even on matters completely unrelated to divorce. The original deal had been intended as a way of satisfying Shas politically, which had increased its demands that it originally made when it signed the coalition agreement. Labor vetoed the proposal on the grounds that it constituted a violation of the religious status quo. The bill has been frozen ever since. However, during Monday's meeting, State Control Committee chairman Zevulun Orlev said the two elements of the proposed legislation should be separated. The part granting the right of the rabbinical court to arbitrate property disputes after divorce, which was standard practice until abolished in March 2006 by the High Court, should be restored. The other section of the bill should be considered separately. Friedmann agreed and indicated that he was ready at any time to bring the first portion of the bill to the government and Knesset for approval. Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), the only MK aside from the chairman to attend the meeting, said he had heard Shas was now in favor of such a compromise. Asked to comment on the matter, a spokesman for Shas told The Jerusalem Post the party would accept whatever was agreeable to Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar. But Amar did not express his opinion at the meeting. In other developments, representatives of the State Control Committee presented their critical findings regarding the functioning of the rabbinical courts, while the director-general of the Rabbinical Courts Administration, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, responded to the criticism. Friedmann, who has ministerial responsibility for the rabbinical courts, said "there was a very noticeable improvement in the functioning of the rabbinical courts."