Under fire for a communist-style anti-family bill, Likud Minister for Gender Equality Gila Gamliel says she was not aware of its possible ramifications. She hinted that she would change the bill's formulation, and speculated that someone may have tampered with the bill without her knowledge.
As reported exclusively by Arutz Sheva, the bill could enable judges and social workers to curtail the parental rights of whoever does not educate his or her children to values of “peace… and friendship between all nations.” It also takes away all parents' rights as legal custodians of their children.
The publication – to which Gamliel did not, initially, respond – caused a firestorm of criticism against the newly appointed minister, who only then contacted Arutz Sheva. She told us that the bill was not intended to affect parenting by married couples or parenting in general, but only to put an end to the discrimination against fathers in current Israeli divorce laws, by cancelling the Tender Years Clause.
"God forbid,” she said, “I did not think for one moment that an enlightened country needs to intervene in parents' decisions on these issues. That was not the legislation's intent, and the law is not supposed to be open to such interpretation… I will check and find out if, perhaps, the matters lost their interpretative direction as a result of changes that were made without my approval.”
"From the outset, we do not intervene in the degree of education by parents,” she stressed, adding that if, as a result of the bill's attempt to create equality between men and women in divorce, “there is a byproduct of far-reaching consequences that I did not think of – then these are things that certainly should be clarified in the explanatory notes to the law or by changing the clause in the law to which you are referring.”
"If, in the course of legislating the bill, we discover that the interpretation of the bill does not conform with the legislative intent – we will make the required changes,” she stated.
Love, peace, tolerance and friendship
The bill, named “Parents and their Children,” enumerates what it sees as the basic rights of children, including among them “their preparation for a life of responsibility in a free society, in a spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of the sexes and friendship between all nations, ethnic, national and religious groups.”
This clause appears to empower social workers and courts to intervene in the education of children who are raised in homes that are too nationalistic or religious for their taste.
This is not all, however. The revolutionary bill, which is based on the conclusions of two governmental committees, would take away from Israeli parents the custodianship over their children and replace it with mere “parental responsibility,” which includes duties, but no rights.
The bill would enable the court to take even these limited rights away from a parent if “the court deems that under the existing circumstances, realization of the parental bond is harmful or may cause actual harm to the child, or that realization of the familial bond harms or may harm the child” – a foggy formulation that leaves much room for creative interpretation.
In such cases, the court may “decide the proper way to realize the the parental bond or the familial bond,” based on a request by one of the parents or even by the child.
When this is taken in conjunction with the determination that children have a basic right to be educated on “peace, tolerance, and friendship between all nations and religions,” it would appear that the bill opens a loophole through which the rights of parents to raise their children can be taken away, if they do not raise their children according to these values. It appears, too, that this can be done on the basis of a complaint by a small child, filed with the encouragement of a social worker.
Divorced dads support bill
Supporters of the bill are mostly divorced fathers, who hope that it will enable more egalitarian divorces. This is due to another section of the bill, which annuls the Tender Years Clause that currently automatically prefers women to men in divorce custody disputes, and which – contrary to what its name suggests – applies de facto to children of all ages.
With Gamliel's appointment to the position of minister, the bill has been transferred to the hands of MK Yoav Kisch (Likud). Arutz Sheva was told that MK Kisch is currently attempting to receive explanations from Gamliel regarding the problematic parts of the bill, and if need be, he will either attempt to change those sections when the bill is debated in a Knesset committee, or submit his own, alternative bill.