‘Tzohar Bill’ passes preliminary vote

Netanyahu accidentally votes against measure; Livni: PM’s move was intentional, to appease haredim.

Alternative wedding, Tel Aviv_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Alternative wedding, Tel Aviv_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The “Tzohar Bill” jumped its first hurdle in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday, despite opposition by haredi factions and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accidentally voting against the measure.
The bill, proposed by MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu) and given government support by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation earlier this month, passed its preliminary reading, meaning it has to undergo three more readings and committee review before it becomes law.
Should it pass, the measure will allow residents to register for marriage in any municipality, marking a victory for Israel Beiteinu and Orthodox-Zionist rabbinical group Tzohar. Currently, every couple wishing to get married must register in their town, limiting their choice of rabbi.
Shas and United Torah Judaism oppose the measure, which would weaken haredi municipal rabbis and strengthen Tzohar, which performs approximately 2,000 marriages every year through the rabbinate in Shoham, northeast of Lod.
The haredi MKs take issue with the fact that Kirschenbaum’s bill would allow couples to pick rabbis at the level of halachic (Jewish law) stringency that suits them.
As the votes for the preliminary reading were counted, with 57 in favor, it became clear that Netanyahu was one of the 15 opposed. The others were haredi MKs and ministers.
The prime minister told Deputy Knesset Speaker Orly Levy-Abecasis (Israel Beiteinu) that his vote was accidental, but she said she could not change it.
However, it was noted in the protocol that Netanyahu did not mean to oppose the bill.
Hours later, at the end of a Kadima-initiated plenum discussion on “the Netanyahu government’s failures,” opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that if Netanyahu had real policies, he would not have gotten confused.
She added that the prime minister voted against the “Tzohar Bill” because he wanted to appease the haredi parties.
A Kadima spokesman said that “Netanyahu’s vote will be remembered in disgrace until the end of time,” and that the “ugly truth” of the prime minister’s blunder is that he wanted to strengthen the “extremist haredi alliance in the Knesset.”
Earlier this week, sources close to UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said his party was reconsidering its partnership with the Right, because it interpreted public statements by the prime minister as anti-haredi.
In Wednesday’s plenum discussion, Netanyahu praised haredi ministers and MKs as “responsible,” as opposed to extremist “marginal groups” that have been subject to media scrutiny for spitting on and verbally abusing non-haredi women.