'There's no value in preventing divorce'

Conservatives and liberals debate in the Knesset: does co-parenting strengthen the family unit, or increase the number of divorces?

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Gil Ronen,

MK Tamar Zandberg
MK Tamar Zandberg
Flash 90

In a Tuesday discussion regarding the advancement of women in the Knesset, a question came up: Does the idea of co-parenting strengthen the family unit, or weaken it?

The discussion, whose guests of honor were Swedish Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser and Swedish maternity leave expert Nicholas Lofgren.

Israeli MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and others praised the Swedish, and called on Israel to imitate Sweden's policy regarding maternity and paternity leave.

In addition to the feminist representatives, who are present in every discussion on advancing women, representatives of the divorced fathers' groups were also present, as were religious representatives who have a more conservative view on the family unit.

One of these, Hosen Association representative Uri Bratfeld, asked the Swedish expert if equal childcare added to the strength of the family unit or created a divide between the parents.

Lofgren said he knows of a study which proves that equality in parenting strengthens the connection between couples, and between parents and their children.

When Bratfeld asked if there was a connection between parenting equality and the high rate of divorce, Zandberg began arguing with him, claiming that in her eyes, lowering the divorce rate is not a value in itself.

The number of married couples in Sweden is currently dropping, with many couples choosing to cohabit for an extended period of time, or not to marry at all. Sweden's divorce rates and the number of single-parent households are among the highest in the world.

"Life Center" representative Sarah Gottlieb suggested creating small family-like frameworks outside the home, which would simulate a family situation for children whose parents are forced to place them in afternoon programs. The current afternoon programs, she said, do not aid children's emotional development.

According to Gottlieb, she has met many children who lack the constant parental contact, as well as many parents who have difficulty addressing their children's emotional needs.

"Zehut" party representative Yonadav Stern pointed out several studies which show that despite the US' efforts at equality, men and women choose different careers because of the natural differences between the sexes.

Attorney Yaron Medan, who works with "Fathers for Justice," said the women's organizations are not known for their commitment to true equality, and earn their living from fanning the flames of the conflict. He was ordered to leave the room by Committee Chairwoman Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint Arab List).

"Beit Abba" representative Hagai Nadav spoke about the inequality between Israeli mothers and fathers, apparent in everything from child support to the ease with which Israeli authorities believe false accusations of violence against fathers and harm the fathers' relationships with their children.