Kulanu backs 'Jewish Law' amendment for Israel's courts

Kulanu signals support for amendment to 'Nationality Law' that requires courts to consider Jewish civil law.

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Tzvi Lev,

Roy Folkman
Roy Folkman
Flash 90

The Kulanu party has signaled it will support a hotly contested amendment to the 'Nationality Law' that instructs courts to rule according to Jewish civil law in issues which Israeli law does not address.

The proposed 'Nationality Law' would officially define Israel as a Jewish state, with the expected result, also hotly contested, that the fact that Israel is a Jewish state will be taken into account in court decisions where the Jewish identity of the state affects civil rights. The bill is advancing through the Knesset, and is expected to be voted on in the Knesset's winter session. On Monday a preliminary debate will be held on the exact wording of the proposed law.

Kulano faction chairman Roy Folkman told Haaretz Monday that his party has agreed to an amendment to the proposed law that would obligate courts to adhere to Jewish law when there is no civil law in the matter. These principles will derive from the Talmud and Responsa..

While a Basic Law already obligates the courts to rule on the basis of Jewish civil law when no legal precedent exists, the amendment would strengthen the status of Jewish legal precedents in court cases.

Folkman said that Kulanu will support the law on condition that the State of Israel is legally enshrined as a 'Jewish and Democratic State', and not a 'Jewish State with a democratic form of government', which haredi parties had demanded. Folkman added that this change was made in order to ensure that Israel's Jewish character would not supersede its democratic nature.

A special ministerial committee made up of Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), Justice Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), Economy Minister Eli Cohen (Kulanu) and MK Avi Dichter (Likud) recently completed most of its draft on the Basic Law: Israel as the State for the Jewish People, but two issues have remained contentious - the definition of Arabic, and whether its democratic nature will be equal to its definition as Jewish state.

In the current proposal, the Arabic language would maintain its status as an official language of the State of Israel.

The committee also decided that in order to honor the Druze community whose sons serve in the IDF, the Knesset will also pass a special law that will define the state's treatment of the Druze community as separate from the Arab community.

The Israeli government has been attempting to pass the 'Nationality Law' for years. In 2015, Prime Minister Netanyahu shelved a similar iteration of the bill after then-Justice Minister Livni vehemently opposed the bill and threatened a coalition crisis.