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Crisis Ends, for Now Knesset Body Votes to Postpone Vote on Marriage Bill Till Fall

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The Knesset Presidium voted 6-2 today to postpone action on the Independent Liberal Party’s controversial civil marriages bill until next fall when Parliament reconvenes after its summer recess. The postponement was supported by the Labor Alignment, including Mapam and the National Religious Party. The Gahal faction opposed it, apparently in an effort to embarrass the government.

Today’s vote ended for the time being the threat of a government crisis which could have precipitated new elections. Mapam’s decision yesterday to withdraw its support of the ILP measure made postponement of the vote a foregone conclusion. Labor Party sources said today that a new postponement would not be sought after the Knesset recess because that would be “unfair tactics.” Thus the measure which calls for civil marriages in cases where couples are denied marriage rites for religious reasons is certain to come up again, renewing the bitter controversy between secular and religious elements in the country.

Premier Meir’s Labor Party opposed the ILP bill at this time on grounds that it would violate the religious status quo. Mrs. Meir regarded Mapam support of the measure as a breach of coalition discipline and warned that under those circumstances she would dissolve her government. Labor Party sources said Mrs. Meir hopes the situation will have changed by next fall making the ILP measure unnecessary. They said she pinned her hopes on the election of Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren as Israel’s Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Goren has indicated that he could find halachic (religious law) solutions to such problems as “unmarriageable.”

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