Minister Matan Kahana
Minister Matan KahanaDanny Shemtov, Knesset spokesman

Perhaps surprisingly for a government that on the surface appeared to be an ad hoc effort to resolve a political crisis in what was allegedly the only way possible, members of the Yamina party are moving forward with legislation that would likely have been impossible to pass if they had indeed formed a government with the haredi political parties and the rest of the right wing.

The next project to be undertaken by Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) is that of altering the composition of the committee for the appointment of judges. According to a report in Yediot Aharonot, Kahana wants to increase the proportion of women appointed to serve on the committee, with the ultimate goal of seeing that more rabbis from the National Religious sector are appointed to official positions. He intends to move forward with this plan as early as next week, ensuring that together, the National Religious and secular members of the committee constitute a majority.

This has long been a goal of many in the National Religious sector, who want to see not only members of their own sector appointed as rabbis, but also specifically rabbis who have served in the army and whom they view as more integrated into Israeli society.

There are currently eleven members on the committee for the appointment of judges. Two are serving ministers, two are MKs (one from the coalition and one from the opposition), two are the Chief Rabbis of the State, two more are dayanim (religious court judges) from Israel’s Chief Rabbinic Court, two are representatives of the Bar Chambers, and one is a rabbinic court adviser appointed by the Minister of Religious Affairs.

During periods when the haredi political parties Shas and UTJ were part of the coalition, their representatives were a semi-permanent fixture on the committee (one minister and one MK from their parties were usually on the committee). Together with the country’s Chief Rabbis and the dayanim of the Chief Rabbinic Court, these six constituted a haredi majority over the five other committee members.

Due to this composition, only around a third of dayanim appointed in the country were from the National Religious community, and the others were haredi. Effectively, the Shas and UTJ parties utilized what was in practice a veto to prevent the appointment of rabbis and dayanim they considered too liberal.

During the year-plus of the coronavirus epidemic, six regional dayanim were appointed along with three dayanim to the Chief Rabbinic Court. Now, Minister Kahana intends to alter the composition of the committee such that at least half of its political representatives are women.

This will significantly change the composition of the committee. Kahana and New Hope MK Zeev Elkin (Minister for Housing and Construction) will be the serving ministers appointed to it, and the two MKs will be women. Since neither of the haredi parties have any women MKs, this move will limit haredi participation in the committee to the two Chief Rabbis (currently haredi but not guaranteed to remain so) and the two dayanim (who are also not by necessity haredi). The other seven members will be either secular or from the National Religious community.