The Ministerial Committee for Legislation has approved an expansion of rabbinical courts' authorities to monetary matters.  The Labor Party jumps to protest.

The Committee's decision means that the government coalition will support the bill when it comes up for a Knesset vote. The Labor Party, a leading member of the coalition, demands that the full Cabinet discuss the issue in its next session.  The bill was proposed, ironically, by Welfare Minister Yitzchak Herzog of Labor.  Only Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann voted against it in the Committee.

The proposed legislation is seen as an incentive for the Sephardic-hareidi religious Shas Party to remain in the government. It stipulates that the rabbinical courts can adjucate not only marriages and divorce issues, but also monetary affairs - if both parties agree, and if at least one is a Jew.

It also specifies that pre-nuptial monetary agreements can be adjucated by the rabbinical courts not only before and during a marriage, but after a divorce.

Left-wing and women's rights organizations reacted with a storm of fury. "Whoever does not want to see a Halakhic state founded here had better wake up right now, before it is too late," wrote Rivka Luvitch, of the left-wing religious women's movement Kolekh (Your Voice).

Others complained that the requirement that both sides must agree to be judged before a rabbinical court is insufficient.  "Given the political social situation in Israel, who can guarantee that the 'consent' given by the weaker side will be a true consent?" asks another Kolekh member, Atty. Batya Cohen-Dror, writing in Ynet.

Another female rabbinical lawyer, who did not wish to be named and who is not a Kolekh member, told Arutz-7 that the rabbinical courts may be improving, "but they still have a long way to go."

The legislation, if passed, will neutralize a Supreme Court ruling of April 2006 stating that the practice of rabbinical courts acting as arbitrator for divorced couples "has no basis in the legal code."