The Jerusalem Post
‘Legislation on judges selection panel discriminates against men’
MK Avi Maoz complains legislation proposed by government would in effect permit only appointing women to committee
Hard-right MK Avi Maoz has protested to the Knesset speaker that draft legislation proposing to change how women are selected to serve on the Selection Committee for Rabbinical Judges would discriminate against men.
Maoz, who heads the religiously ultra-conservative Noam Party, which is part of the Religious Zionist faction, sent a letter on Wednesday to Speaker Mickey Levy saying the legislation and the current political makeup of the cabinet would mean that only female and not male MKs could become members of the committee, thus discriminating against men.
The bill, being advanced by Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana of Yamina, reworks previous legislation ensuring that there are at least four women on the 11-member committee.
Among other members, the panel includes the two chief rabbis and two rabbinical judges from the Supreme Rabbinical Court, who by dint of the law must be men.
Legislation passed in 2013 guaranteed that one minister and one MK on the committee be women, along with one representative of the Israel Bar Association and a female rabbinical courts advocate.
The purpose of the law was to give women influence over the identity of state-appointed rabbinical judges, who have a weighty influence over the lives of women but who are perforce all men since the Chief Rabbinate only gives rabbinical judge qualifications
But in the coalition agreement of New Hope and Yesh Atid, the former demanded that Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin of New Hope be given a spot on the committee.
The 2013 law stipulates that one of the two ministers serving on the panel must be a woman, along with one of the two MKs on the committee.
But since the male minister will be Kahana, who as religious services minister is the committee chairman, there was no way to shoehorn Elkin onto the committee, other than passing legislation.
So Kahana’s legislation would
change the requirement from having one female minister and one female MK to having two women from the four ministerial and Knesset representatives.
In effect, both of those female representatives will have to be MKs at present, since the two other spots on the committee of those four are men, namely Kahana and Elkin.
Maoz, in his letter to Levy, argued that this discriminated against the 85 male MKs who would not be able to stand for appointment to the committee because of the political circumstances.
“This is a severe injury to the status of male members of Knesset as public representatives, who comprise 72% of all Knesset members, and their rights to fulfill their duty,” said the MK.
“I call on you to act for the honor of the Knesset and to use your authority to stop the advancement of this law,” Maoz wrote to Levy. “If the government is interested in electing female MKs it should put them up for a free election without discriminating against male MKs, and the Knesset can choose its representatives in a democratic manner.”
Attorney Orit Lahav, director of the Mavoi Satum organization, which advocates for women’s divorce rights, rejected Maoz’s claims and said the majority of the selection committee would still be men even after the new legislation.
“The inclusion of women on the Selection Committee for Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee is critical. Only men can be elected as rabbinical judges so at the very least there must be [gender] equality on the body that selects them,” said Lahav.
“The purpose of amending the legislation is not to exclude men, but to ensure a more diverse representation of the general public in the country and not to leave the committee under the control of the ultra-Orthodox parties that have promoted a very clear agenda, as has been the case until now.
“If MK Maoz is concerned about gender exclusion, he should work for the appointment of women on the rabbinical courts or for the integration of Knesset members in the ultra-Orthodox parties.”