Knesset Constitution Committee approved a proposal
authorizing rabbinical courts to hear cases on monetary
issues when both sides consent, despite opposition by the
Justice Ministry. The Committee approved Rabbi Shmuel
Halpert's proposal for its first reading in the Knesset.
The following seven Knesset members voted for the law: Chativ
(Mada), Tal and Saban (Shas), Ravitz (UTJ), Steinitz and
Rivlin (Likud), Yossi Katz (One Israel). The following voted
against: Committee chairman Rubinstein (Meretz), Goldschmidt,
Avital and Dayan (One Israel), Paritzki (Shinui), Rabin-
Pelosoff (Mercaz). MK Paritzki called for a revote, to take
place next week.
Today, rabbinical courts can hear monetary cases even when
both side agree to accept their authority only on the basis
of the general Arbitration Law. According to Rabbi Halpert's
proposal, rabbinical courts will be able to hear monetary
issues on their own authority without being empowered by the
The difference is significant. For example, in order to force
witnesses to testify in a suit based on the Arbitration Law,
the arbitrator (in this case the rabbinical court) must ask
the court the order the witness to come. Also, in order to
enforce the rulings of an arbitrator it is also necessary to
go to the court and ask it to enforce the decision, since the
arbitrator lacks any power of his own to enforce his
decision. This means that in any case, the exercise of any
power of enforcement is only via the courts who thus always
have the last word.
If the rabbinical courts are able to hear such cases based on
a law that applies directly to them, they will be have their
own legal power to compel witnesses to testify, to enforce
their rulings and so on.
The Justice Ministry opposes this proposal.
If approved, the proposal will be in effect for a two-year
trial period. If, during that period, it becomes clear that
the law imposes additional pressures upon the rabbinical
courts thereby adversely affecting deliberations on marriages
and divorces, the law will be canceled.