Government Crisis Looms over Civil Marriages Bill

The possibility of a new crisis in Premier Golda Meir’s coalition government loomed today as the Knesset prepared to reconvene tomorrow after its summer recess. The Independent Liberal Party announced that it intends to press anew for a vote on the limited civil marriages bill submitted to the Knesset by Gideon Hausner last June but shelved in order to avert a crisis at that time.

Mrs. Meir warned in Tel Aviv Friday that the dissolution of her coalition would be inevitable if the Mapam faction, part of the Labor Alignment, supported the ILP measure. But today’s election of Rabbi Shlomo Goren as Israel’s new Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi gave rise to hopes that a showdown could be avoided if Rabbi Goren can persuade the Liberals to give him time to find a halachic solution to the problems its civil marriages bill is intended to alleviate.

NEW ELECTIONS IF MAPAM DEFECTS

The Hausner bill would introduce civil marriages for couples who are barred from marrying by halacha. Halacha, as interpreted by Israel’s Orthodox rabbis bans marriages between a Cohen and a divorcee and between legitimate Israelis and persons deemed by the rabbis to be of illegitimate birth. Rabbi Goren, regarded as one of the more liberal rabbis in Israel, has said that he can find a halachic solution to these problems. His first test would be the case of the Langers, a sister and brother denied the right to marry partners of their choice because the rabbinate has branded them “mamzers”–illegitimate.

The National Religious Party is bitterly opposed to the Hausner bill and has threatened to leave the coalition if it is adopted, Mapam, particularly its younger elements, support the bill. Mrs. Meir said that the ILP could leave the coalition without destroying it, but not Mapam. She said a Mapam defection would force her to dissolve the coalition and would require new elections to be held a year before they are scheduled.

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