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Coalition Dodges Crisis over Civil Marriages Bill

A face-saving formula apparently was worked out today to prevent a Cabinet crisis over plans of the Independent Liberal Party to introduce a restricted civil marriage bill. The bill would permit civil marriage, now banned in Israel, in situations where the rabbis will not marry a couple because of difficulties stemming from Jewish religious law.

The Cabinet decided by a majority vote that the bill contravened the coalition agreement but also acted to give the Liberals time to reconsider. Tourism Minister Moshe Kol. the Liberal Cabinet member, contended the bill does not violate the coalition agreement. Since the majority disagreed, a proposal was approved that a Committee of Ministers will decide the issue in a month and that the Liberal Party agree in advance to accept the committee’s decision. The Liberals would not proceed with plans to introduce the bill in the Knesset on Wednesday. Kol said he would have to consult with his party before replying to the proposal.

Earlier today, Premier Golda Meir met with Liberal leaders and was told by Gideon Hausner, author of the measure, that the Liberals would proceed to bring up the bill on Wednesday. She warned that such action would violate the coalition agreement. The initial evaluation of some observers was that Premier Meir’s Labor Alignment would not take drastic action because it would not want to be dependent on the Religious parties. That situation would develop under rules of the coalition pact in which the Minister of a faction voting against the Government is deemed to have resigned 48 hours after the vote unless a Cabinet majority decides otherwise. The Liberal bill would permit civil marriage in cases such as that of a Cohen and a divorcee and also of “mamzerim,” whose mother did not undergo religious divorce procedures before remarrying.

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