Jerusalem Post reported yesterday on the complex and convoluted politics surrounding decisions on the appointment of Rabbinical Court judges under Israel's newly formed coalition government. At the center of the controversy is the question of how Rabbinical Courts, that are responsible for various personal status matters, will treat women seeking divorces. That will be affected by who sits on the Appointments Committee for Rabbinical Judges, and the judges they select.
Bayit Yehudi, a religious Zionist party that is one of the coalition partners, does not want to see a change in the current composition. In the last government it succeeded in getting 4 of the 11 seats on the Appointments Committee for women. However, United Torah Judaism, another coalition partner, wants to expand the Appointments Committee in order to water down the influence of the women members, and will introduce legislation to do so. Bayit Yehudi, in its coalition agreement with Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party has obtained the right to oppose UTJ's bill-- which likely will assure it will not pass the Knesset. Currently nearly 30% of the positions on Rabbinical Courts are vacant. A further complication is that the Chairman of the Appointments Committee can block judicial appointments by refusing to convene the Committee. Divorce rights advocates are criticizing Bayit Yehudi for giving up the Chairmanship to Likud, which will more likely side with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties on appointments.