Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to a request by Justice
Minister Yosef Lapid (Shinui) at this week's cabinet meeting
to address the recommendations formulated by the Bar-On
Committee regarding civil marriage registry in Israel.
The committee was headed by Ronny Bar-On, a member of the
Likud, but the recommendation is one of the pet demands of
Shinui and was included in the original government agreement.
The other members of the three-man Knesset committee are the
National Religious Party's Nissan Slomiansky and Shinui's
Sharon said committee members would be invited to the next
cabinet meeting to present the report to the ministers. If
the recommendations receive government approval, an
alternative to religious marriage would be set up in the
State of Israel. Lapid told reporters that if the proposal is
accepted "a parallel authority for registering couples would
be set up. Those who register there will not be married
according to religious matrimony laws but will be eligible
for all of the legal rights granted to those who marry
through the Rabbinate."
Such a proposal upsets one of the central aspects of the
status quo agreement reached between the religious community
and the secular government at the founding of the State. The
central requirement for a common marriage standard ensures
that the Jewish residents of Israel remain a single
In a related matter, the government has decided to form an
interministerial committee for religious services that will
be charged with overseeing the provision of religious
services in the State of Israel in light of the closure of
the Religious Affairs Ministry and the partial dismantlement
of the local religious councils.
Welfare Minister Zevulun Orlev will chair the committee and
members will include Finance Minister Netanyahu, Interior
Minister Poraz, Education Minister Livnat, Health Minister
Naveh and Minister Sharansky.
The committee will be authorized to accept reports,
information and follow-ups on the provision of religious
services based on the new arrangements at the government
ministries following the dismantling of the Religious Affairs
Ministry. The committee will also be responsible for
coordinating between the various ministries to improve and
promote the efficient execution of religious services.
Political figures noted the committee was set up at the
request of Minister Orlev of the NRP, who insisted the
government grant him some authority to allow him to claim an
achievement to his constituents following the resignation of
two senior NRP MKs. Meanwhile state religious services have
been collapsing for months and many religious council workers
have not received their salaries on time, while others have
not been paid at all.