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Nationalists Trip Up Gay Rights Bill

Stormy session: Yisrael Beytenu, Jewish Home postpone vote on bill recognizing rights of same-sex parents.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 12/4/2013, 1:14 PM

Marriage contract (ketuba), ring
Marriage contract (ketuba), ring
Israel news photo (Flash 90)

A storm erupted at the Knesset plenum Wednesday morning, when the governing Coalition announced at the last minute it would postpone a vote on a bill giving homosexual and lesbian parents a tax benefit that is currently only available to married couples.

The bill, presented by MK Adi Kol of the secularist Yesh Atid and several other MKs, would grant same-sex couples a tax discount – called nekudat mas, or “tax point” – for their children, just like normative parents. The partners would tell the tax authorities which one of them is to receive the benefit accorded to mothers, and which one will receive the benefit accorded to fathers.

Deputy Finance Minister Miki Levy (Yesh Atid) was about to reply to the bill on behalf of the government, ahead of a plenum vote, when Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin (Likud / Yisrael Beytenu) announced that the reply and the vote would be postponed to a later date.

A ruckus broke out and it took Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud / Yisrael Beytenu) several minutes to calm down the angry MKs. Edelstein asked MKs Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) and Adi Kol to leave the plenum and continue their argument outside, when it appeared they could not stop arguing.

A source in the Jewish Home said that the decision to postpone the vote was reached by Jewish Home and Yisrael Beytenu, because Yesh Atid had backtracked on a commitment it had made regarding the bill. The source said that MK Kol had agreed that the bill would grant the benefit to same-sex couples without granting them official recognition as being married: “We saw in the media that Kol had renounced the understandings, and therefore the vote will not take place today. This is what was decided by the Coalition management.”

“Our offer for a benefit without recognition still stands,” said the Jewish Home source. “The reason for this is that we have no problem with equalizing rights and duties. We do have a problem with forcing a change in the status quo through the back door.”

An earlier version of the bill had been vetoed by the Jewish Home.

Yesh Atid's spokeswoman said that her party insists on conducting the vote on the bill in its present formulation. She blamed the Jewish Home, saying it had changed its position regarding the bill while “spreading false statements and changing its mind often, based on what was being said in the media.”

The cooperation between Yisrael Beytenu, a nationalist faction headed by Minister Avigdor Liberman, which ran with Likud in the last elections in a joint list, and the religious-Zionist Jewish home, regarding a bill concerning family mores, could signal the beginning of the formation of a conservative bloc in the Knesset.

Israel has never had an effective conservative political movement comparable to those of the US and Britain. Parties that are not strictly religious tend to be very liberal on issues of family mores, and matters like abortion and same-sex marriage have never been election issues.

Ari Yashar contributed to this article