Friedmann opposes rabbinical courts law

Shas demanded that the bill undo rulings issued since 1994 that reduced the powers of the rabbinical courts.

Daniel Friedmann 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Daniel Friedmann 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann refused to support a government bill on Sunday aimed at restoring lost powers to the rabbinical courts and sent it back to the Justice Ministry for redrafting. The bill, which was originally drafted after the last election when MK Haim Ramon was justice minister, was intended to fulfill the coalition agreement between Shas and Kadima. When Shas joined the coalition, it demanded that the new government pass a bill to undo three rulings issued by the High Court of Justice since 1994 that had reduced the powers of the rabbinical courts. In the first ruling, in the Bavli petition, the High Court ordered a rabbinical court to divide property equally between husband and wife in accordance with secular court rulings rather than with religious law. According to a second decision in the case of Sima Levy, the High Court ruled that all disputes regarding an indemnity clause appearing in a divorce settlement handed down by a rabbinical court must be heard in civil court. The third ruling, handed down last year in the case of Sima Amir, declared that rabbinical courts were not authorized to arbitrate civil disputes even when both sides voluntarily agreed to bring the dispute to the religious court. Last year's ruling infuriated the haredi parties and the rabbinical courts administration. During the coalition negotiations, Shas demanded that all three rulings be revoked by legislation. Shas wanted the rabbinical courts to be able to hand down rulings, which have greater force than arbitration, on any civil matter unrelated to divorce where both parties had agreed to accept its jurisdiction. Such rulings would be based on religious law. The rabbinical court would also have the right to adjudicate any dispute arising out of an indemnity clause in a divorce settlement or other agreement initiated or approved by the rabbinical court. Ramon's bill did not go as far as Shas wanted. It would have granted the rabbinical courts the right to rule on disputes over an indemnity clause included in original divorce settlement (which the High Court had denied in the Sima Levy case) and restored their right to arbitrate monetary disputes in civil matters unrelated to divorce (which the High Court had denied in the Sima Amir case.) However, it did not grant the rabbinical courts the status of a judicial court rather than an arbitrator in monetary disputes unrelated to divorce. Ramon was in the midst of negotiations with Shas and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar to resolve the deadlock when he was forced to resign. The matter was left standing until Sunday, when Ramon's draft was brought to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation for approval. However, Friedmann said he did not want to go as far as Ramon had. He said he was unwilling to restore the right of the rabbinical courts to deal with disputes over an indemnity clause included in a divorce settlement. Friedmann said he was only prepared to restore the authority of the rabbinical courts to arbitrate monetary disputes unrelated to divorce procedures.