Justice Minister Yossi Beilin once more attacked the matrimony laws of the State, but this time with added acerbity. "In the 21st century, it is inconceivable that our lives here should be governed only by religious laws. This cannot be! Whoever wants to live that way is welcome to do so. But they won't force my grandchildren, or those of Minister Sarid or those of MK Lipkin to live that way," cried Beilin.
These remarks were made in the Knesset, in response to the proposal of MK Shmuel Halpert and David Tal (Shas) regarding the acerbic declarations of the Justice Minister in respect to the legislation of the Constitution for Israel and the changing of the matrimony laws. Beilin aroused a storm among UTJ's Knesset members, who vociferously protested his comment that he is obligated to state his opinion in order to direct, lead and try to influence.
Beilin rejected the criticism that his remarks constitute a breach of the coalition agreement, and undermine the existing law which must be honored. "The fact that there are laws and that our job is to honor them, both as legislators and citizens, doesn't mean that we have to identify with all of those laws," he said, explaining that bad laws should be crossed off the list. "Precisely the ones who are not only permitted, but also obligated to speak about the need to change laws are the Knesset members," he added.
He then said that the coalition agreement is a compromise, in which each side foregoes part of its dreams. He also claimed that if MK's Halpert and Tal were asked which laws they would want to see in effect here, they would surely say that they want all of the laws to be according to the halocho. "I think that the religious matrimony laws in Israel are laws which are imposed upon the secular, and that the fact that something is a law doesn't mean that it isn't forced. The law can also coerce. It coerces the religious and it coerces the secular. I think that this isn't good. I think that our laws shouldn't be based on the halocho, and that those who wish to marry according to the halocho -- and this applies to the majority of the Jews in Israel -- would so anyway, and not because someone forced them to do so."
MK Rabbi Porush: "But you are a government minister in the State of Israel. When you make such statements, they have a different significance than when a regular citizen makes them."
Beilin: "A government minister isn't a Maranno."
Porush: "A government minister is expected behave according to the consensus."
MK Halpert then claimed that a change in the matrimony laws would result in a rift in the Nation, since those who marry according to the halocho will not be able to, in the future, marry someone whose parents didn't marry according to the halocho. "This means that you're proposing to split the Nation and to cause a rift, something which David ben Gurion didn't want. He wanted to maintain the unity of the Nation. You propose the to split it."
In his reaction to these remarks, Beilin claimed that there is already a split, since the State of Israel recognizes Reform conversions conducted abroad. "We, as a parliament, did something many years ago which created the potential for this split and because of it, or not only because of it, there are Jews who keep genealogical records. One can't tell a person who lives in Israel in a free manner: if you live a free life, you'll split the Nation. That's not the type of claim you can make to such a person -- to the young couple, to the free thinking person. Therefore, if you ask me, as a government minister, I say that my job is not only to abide by coalition agreements but also to state my opinion, to direct, to guide, to try and influence others. I think that it will be for the good of the Jewish religion and for the good of the joint life of the secular and religious, if people don't feel that they are being coerced. You know how many people marry abroad? You know that people lie about the manner in which they marry because they don't feel that the Orthodox way is their way? I tell you, if you want to live without hatred and animosity, and in a way which will cause more people to marry according to the halocho, you must realize that more people will marry according the halocho, if they don't feel obligated to do so," Beilin said.
MK Halpert: "That's the Torah, and nothing will help. The Torah has been in existence for thousands of years. This is the Torah, and it won't be exchanged."