Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman stood up in the Knesset Assembly today (Wednesday) and strongly criticized the institutional haredi opposition to civil marriage.
"We are talking about 666,000 people who are not allowed to get married in this country. Ninety percent of them serve in the army ad pay taxes," he said, during a discussion on a civil marriage bill that he submitted for a vote.
"These people who want to marry travel to Cyprus, register their marriage and return, and the state recognizes it. But they can't do the same thing in Israel. These soldiers are allowed to die for the State of Israel but are not allowed to marry."
Liberman claimed that the Likud is acting hypocritically in the matter. "The first bill on civil marriage was put together by the Likud in 2004. Almost 20,000 people leave Israel in order to register their marriage. We can add the thousands of cases in which people conduct wedding ceremonies within Israel, but without the Chief Rabbinate."
He then turned his anger on the haredim. "I don't understand why the haredi establishment gets involved in this issue when it's not relevant to them. In any case, the haredi community acts according to its own system, without recognition from the Chief Rabbinate."
Liberman's bill proposed that a man and woman who fulfill certain requirements could receive official recognition and be treated like a married couple. It also calls for appointing a marriage registrar, creating a register of couples who agreed to be officially recognized, and to establish procedures for handling the list and the registration, including adding and removing couples and court appeals.
The bill's explanation notes that "Marriage in Israel is only religious; it is known that a person cannot be compelled to take part in religious procedures and ceremonies that go against his belief; many citizens cannot or do not wish to have a religious wedding. This law creates a parallel track, with equal rights and obligations, through which Israeli men and women who so desire can have a civil marriage that is not in accordance with religious law."
Transport Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) responded in the name of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), saying, "The bill seeks to create a substantial policy change and goes against the set Coalition agreement not to change the status quo on religion and the State."
The bill was ultimately defeated, as 10 MKs voted in favor, 45 against and three abstained.