The Jerusalem Post
‘Elkin Law’ falls after Levy casts wrong vote
The coalition suffered a humiliating setback on Thursday after the so-called “Elkin Law” was defeated in its third and final reading because Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy voted against it by accident.
The Knesset voted on the bill Thursday morning after a marathon all-night session in the plenum in which numerous opposition reservations to it were rejected.
But the final vote was 51-51, meaning the legislation was defeated, after Levy voted against it by accident.
A Knesset legal adviser was consulted and determined that Levy’s vote could not be changed and that the law had not passed.
The debacle represents another legislative defeat for the unwieldy coalition, although the bill is nowhere near as important as the citizenship bill, which was defeated last week.
The Elkin Law was designed to get Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin onto the Rabbinical Judges Selection Committee. A clause
in the coalition agreement between Elkin’s New Hope Party and Yesh Atid stipulated that the housing and construction minister would be appointed to the Rabbinical Judges Selection Committee.
If the coalition still wishes to pass the law, it would have to start the legislative process again and put the bill up for a vote in a first reading, followed by the committee stages and second and
The coalition is considering not bringing the bill to a vote again and working within the current law. Yesh Atid is
mulling sanctions against MK Merav Ben-Ari, who did not show up for the vote and did not pair off with an MK from the opposition.
Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MKs and leaders were jubilant over the bill’s defeat.
“The government that was established through deception and which signs coalition agreements that have no inheritance in the God of Israel does not have divine assistance,” United Torah Judaism chairman Moshe Gafni said.
The opposition had defeated the law since it followed its values and received divine assistance for so doing, Shas leader Arye Deri said.
“I am so proud of the Shas MKs’ fight that we waged day and night against all odds to topple this offensive rabbinical judges law, and we have merited divine assistance for it,” he said.
Despite several requests for comment, Elkin has not said why he was so eager to get on the committee to the extent that legislation was advanced to facilitate his demand.
Committee members do have a significant power of patronage, with political actors interested in advancing specific rabbinical candidates eager to curry favor with members of the panel.
A law passed in 2013 required that at least one of
the two ministers and one of the two MKs on the committee be women, which created problems for Elkin, since the chairman of the committee must be the religious services minister, currently Matan Kahana of Yamina.
Since Kahana and Elkin are both men, Elkin cannot claim his place on the committee under the terms of the current law.
An initial version of the government bill passed its first reading last month. It changed the 2013 law so that instead of guaranteeing one female minister and one female MK a spot on the committee, at least two of the four representatives from the Knesset and the government must be women.
This meant Elkin could serve alongside Kahana, while the two female representatives could both be MKs.
The opposition denounced this change, saying it would mean haredi parties could not have a representative on the committee since they have no female MKs, and that male MKs were being excluded from the panel on the basis of gender. A Knesset legal adviser agreed with that position.
A new version of the legislation was proposed to the Knesset committee on Monday, according to which the number of members on the panel would be increased from 11 to 13 and include one new minister of any gender.
This would allow Elkin a spot on the committee, along with a second female rabbinical courts advocate to be appointed by the justice minister, currently Elkin’s party leader, Gideon Sa’ar.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report. •