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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Olmert sells his soul

for another day at the helm, once again. This time, at the cost of women, leaving democracy and religion at loggerheads, instead of trying to resolve between them.

For the past few years, ICAR (The International Coalition for Agunah Rights, made up of over 25 organizations) has been working to change the Marital Property (Balancing of Resources) Law of 1974. Women, and other sane people, have been trying to change this law from its inception. The law links the division of marital property to the get.

§ 5 of the Law states (my paraphrase): “The court will balance the resources of a marriage (read: divide up the marital property) at the time of the dissolution of the marriage (read: the get) .” This means that Israeli women can be “held up” both for the get, as well as for marital property, thus facilitating extortion in exchange for the get-- a sad but well known phenomenon. ICAR has proposed an amendment to the law that would allow for the division of marital property prior to the get: when the parties are living apart, for example.

(Almost) everyone agrees that this is a good idea-- Why facilitate extortion? Everyone, except for Shas. They too think that the suggested amendment to the law would cut down, if not eliminate, extortion. But Shas thinks -- hold on to your hats -- that the Bet Din needs tools of extortion in order to facilitate the get. So the existing law is good, reasons Shas, because it facilitates the extortion that is essential to divorce resolution!!! (So help me, it’s true).

ICAR, with the hard help of Robyn Shames (ICAR’s Executive Director), Batsheva Sherman-Shani (the head of ICAR’s legal department) and Marc Luria (a volunteer lobbyist-businessman) (among others) indeed succeeded in getting a majority of voting Knesset members to agree that Shas’ claim is nonsense. And they managed to get the proposed amendment passed through 2 readings. Usually the 3rd reading is a mere formality, and the bill gets passed. Unless the minority opposed to the bill somehow manages to call for a “Vote of Non-Confidence in the Government” that, when supported by the Prime Minister( !?) gets the vote on the bill pushed off for a week. Shas and Olmert (pictured) made a secret deal -- in direct opposition to the majority of the Knesset members, and in direct opposition to the position taken by Olmert’s Kadimah party—that Olmert would agree to push off the vote for a week. And a week, in this particular instance, means indefinitely. The Knesset goes on recess next week; and who knows what the Government is going to look like when it gets back to work. MK Menahem BenSasson, the head of the Law and Constitution Committee, is furious. He worked hard to get this passed. So did we all.

But Olmert, once again, has proved that no price is too dear for another day at the helm of the Government. And Shas, once again, has proved that no price is too dear to protect its constituents at the helm of the rabbinic courts.

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