Custody Bill Narrowly Defeated

YERUSHALAYIM -

A bill that would have annulled the automatic granting of custody of small children to their mothers in divorce cases was defeated by a vote of 42 to 41 in the Knesset on Wednesday.

Opponents argued that the bill, which invested the courts with discretion in awarding custody, in effect transferred parental responsibility for children under six to judges and social workers.

The bill had been promoted by Likud politicians MKs Yoav Kish and Gila Gamliel, who claimed it was aimed at promoting parental equality between father and mother by ending the automatic preference for the mother.

However, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon said the bill “completely ignored the fact that there is no equality between women and men.”

Gamliel angrily denounced the vote, calling it a “badge of shame on the coalition … Shame on you,” and warned the opposition that they may have “won this battle, but a government bill on the subject will pass anyway.”

Failure to pass the measure precipitated a blowup in the Jewish Home party, when it emerged that MK Moti Yogev was absent from the voting.

Had Yogev been there and voted with his party as expected, the bill would still not have passed, but his breach of party discipline earned him a “severe punishment.”

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and faction head Yinon Magal immediately decided to sentence Yogev to a three-week suspension from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and its subcommittees, and bills proposed by Yogev will not be brought for a vote at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation until the end of the parliamentary session.

Following the announcement, Bennett and Magal explained that while the bill was not defeated due to Yogev’s vote, they view with “supreme importance the unity of the coalition and the preservation of effective and positive cooperation that has taken place up till today.”

The Likud, on the other hand, did not discipline MKs who were absent or voted against it, including ministers Moshe Yaalon and Chaim Katz, as well as deputy minister Ayoub Kara.