Haredi men dance on Simhat Torah 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Campaigners for legislation designed to reserve four seats for women on the
committee for appointing rabbinical judges have stepped up their efforts in the
past few days with a legal notice to the High Court of Justice demanding the
election of the new committee be delayed until the legislation is
Women’s rights activists see the committee as a crucial forum to
advance women’s divorce rights since they believe that the appointment of more
moderate rabbinical judges will lead to greater protection for women from
extortion in divorce proceedings.
For the past 18 months until the
opening of the current Knesset there have been no women on the committee. At
least one woman is guaranteed to be on the new committee since a spot is
reserved for the justice minister, Tzipi Livni.
A High Court petition
submitted by the Emunah religious- Zionist women’s rights group at the end of
2011 arguing that the lack of female representation on the committee violates
gender-equality laws was accepted by the court, and has led to a freeze in
rabbinical judge appointments ever since.
Legislation has since been
proposed whereby an additional spot would be added to the committee and four
positions on the panel would be reserved for women, the logic being that since
the two serving chief rabbis and two rabbinical judges from the Supreme
Rabbinical Court, all men, are guaranteed places on the committee, the same
number of places should be reserved for women.
A legal notice to the High
Court filed by Emunah on Tuesday demands that the vote for new committee
members, scheduled for Monday, be delayed long enough for the passage of the
legislation reserving four committee places for women.
The petition was
filed because women’s rights groups fear that behind the scenes political
bargaining will mean that not only will few women end up on the panel but that
conservative-haredi figures will be elected as well, setting back efforts to
have moderate rabbinical judges appointed.
The committee currently
comprises 10 members including the two sitting chief rabbis; two Supreme
Rabbinical Court judges; the justice minister; a minister appointed by the prime
minister; two members elected from the Israel Bar Association; and two MKs.
Customarily, one MK is nominated by the coalition and one by the
The candidates for the two MK positions are thought to be
Shuli Muallem of Bayit Yehudi, Elazar Stern of Hatnua, Merav Michaeli of Labor,
Uri Maklev of United Torah Judaism, Eli Yishai of Shas and Moshe Feiglin of the
Muallem and Michaeli would be welcomed by the women’s groups;
Maklev and Yishai would not.
Emunah, the International Coalition of
Agunah Rights, the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women’s Status and
other groups suspect that a political deal is being worked out among the
opposition parties in which a prominent Labor MK will be guaranteed cross-party
support, including from the two haredi parties, for a place on the committee for
appointment of High Court judges, also due to be elected, in return for the
opposition’s support for a haredi candidate for the committee for appointing
rabbinical court judges.
However, well placed political sources indicated
to The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night that Labor would in the end be
supporting Michaeli’s candidacy.
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