Shas MKs block vote on divorce bill

The law seeks to remove the necessity of waiting until get is granted in order to divide assests.

orlev desk 224 (photo credit: Ariel jerozolimski 224)
orlev desk 224
(photo credit: Ariel jerozolimski 224)
In a late-night political coup Monday, Shas MKs managed to threaten the coalition into delaying a key vote that sought to reduce the number of people who are denied gets (writ of divorce) by their spouses on the basis of financial blackmail. Shas MKs on Sunday opened fire on the bill, which was spearheaded by MKs Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor), Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) and Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), who threatened to vote against the government in key votes should the coalition continue to support the proposal. The law seeks to remove the necessity of waiting until the get is granted in order to divide property. Currently, both members of the couple have to wait until after the get is granted before beginning to divide property. Melchior said it was brought to legislators' attention that the stronger of the two members of the couple frequently benefited from this, agreeing to give a get only after the weaker party turned over his or her portion of their joint property. The bill's initiators said these situations have led to a process of "blackmail under the auspices of the law." In the majority of the cases examined, legislators said the woman was typically the weaker of the two parties and was "forced to buy her get at the expense of compromising and surrendering to the blackmailing husband." Instead, the current proposal would allow property to be divided in cases where one of the following criteria applied: a rabbinical court determined that the couple should be divorced; a year had passed since the day that the legal process was initiated; the couple have been living apart for over nine months; there is a history of legally documented domestic violence. MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) railed against the bill on the Knesset floor. "When I see the proposal 'Financial relations among spouses' I ask whether or not we are still spouses in the coalition?" he said, before being yelled down by the bill's supporters. Ze'ev said that his opposition to the bill stemmed from the fact that it would "bring about the destruction of many houses that we would like to see more complete, to save the familial unit. "Do you know how many cases people opened in the Bet Din (Rabbinical court) and then closed because they managed to get to shalom bayit (peace in the home)?" he yelled. In the hours before the vote, Shas threatened no-confidence votes on the basis of the coalition's support for the law. But during the eight no-confidence votes presented during the marathon Monday plenum session that lasted well into the night, Shas MKs did not follow in the path of their Labor compatriots last week and vote against the government. Instead, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened during the afternoon Kadima faction meeting that he would indeed fire ministers who voted against the government and take a punitive stance against MKs who did the same, the Shas MKs abstained on the eight no-confidence votes, which did not pass. But when the bill came up for a vote, Shas MKs announced that the vote on the bill would be considered a no-confidence vote in the government. The government, with the agreement of Olmert, decided to apply the prime minister's prerogative to put the bill on hold for a week. But with the Knesset going into recess at the end of the week and the future of the government uncertain beyond the September Kadima primaries, the result of the maneuver is that the bill - which Melchior has been trying to push through since the 16th Knesset - has been tabled indefinitely.