A bill aimed at reducing the number of agunot by speeding up the divorce process was presented to the Knesset Monday by MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), together with 30 additional MKs, many of whom are in the government coalition.
Agunot, meaning "chained women," are women who cannot remarry because their husbands refuse to acquiesce to a divorce.
The bill, which was drafted together with the International Coalition for Aguna Rights (ICAR), a coalition of secular, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox women's rights organizations, separates the deadline for arranging the monetary issues from the deadline for the giving of the divorce certificate, or get.
According to the bill, either the wife or the husband could set in motion a process that would result in the break-up of their monetary partnership before the giving of a get, thereby preventing either side from using alimony payments or other jointly owned assets as bargaining chips.
Shimon Ya'acobi, legal adviser for the rabbinical courts, said that Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar opposed the proposed legislation.
"The bill totally neutralizes the rabbinic court's ability to work for reconciliation," he said.
Ya'acobi pointed out that former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak argued against giving rabbinic courts jurisdiction over marriages between a Jew and a non-Jew because the rabbis who sat on the court had no interest in saving the marriage. He said that from Barak's comments we learn the important role of the rabbinic courts in saving marriages.
Ya'acobi also said that the bill would make the divorce process too short.
"In no other Western country does the divorce process take less than 18 to 24 months," he said. "That's because there are certain psychological and technical issues that must be settled along the way."