Photo Credit:
Bedouin women.

The Ministerial Committee against Polygamy, headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), on Monday decided to “toughen enforcement in the fight against polygamy.” Shaked herself issued a statement saying, “Polygamy is a bad, immoral, and most offensive phenomenon to women everywhere and to children. Beyond that, there are elements in the Bedouin communities who have exploited Israel’s soft touch on polygamy and have brought in women from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.”

“The State of Israel has abandoned the issue for the last 70 years, now we are committed to fighting this phenomenon,” Shaked declared, calling for “a discourse on women’s honor, status, independence and promotion.”

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past told his cabinet that the allowances awarded polygamous Bedouin men are increasing in correlation to the number of children of their illegal marriages. Netanyahu called it “a huge industry that provides an incentive to bring women from Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”

But the Lavi organization, which promotes civil rights and proper government and encourages the settlements enterprise in Israel, on Monday night attacked the recommendations of the ministerial committee on how to cope with the phenomenon of polygamy in Bedouin society.

“In contrast to statements by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that she intends to fight the phenomenon, the recommendations published by the team headed by Director General of the Ministry of Justice Ami Palmor hardly deal with enforcement against the phenomenon, and mainly recommends benefits and ‘derivatives’ for the polygamy offenders,” Lavi stated.

“Of the 83 recommendations, only the first 16 relate to enforcement, and all the other recommendations address detailed benefits of education, welfare, employment, health, leisure and more,” Lavi argued, adding that “the few sections dealing with enforcement issues are formulated in a comprehensive manner and do not provide an effective response.”

The Lavi response points to the fact that the Israeli police is designated by the Palmor report to track polygamy marriages between Israeli Bedouin men and Women from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan – by following wedding announcements and similar records in the Arab press. But then, according to the recommendations, Police—not your ideal research facility to begin with—is not mandated to arrest the offender, but merely to warn him that he is about to transgress the law.

The report offers no recommendations on how to effectively enforce violations of the Entry into Israel Law and illegal residence, according to Lavi, which points out “there are no recommendations on how to deal with the registration of children of Palestinian mothers from polygamous families as citizens.” As to the ubiquitous fraud by polygamous Bedouin men against Israel’s Social Security and Land Authority, Lavi says the report offers no practical recommendations on how to deal with those numerous, criminal violations.

The report also offers nothing on actually reducing the illegal Bedouin communities, despite the fact polygamy there is 1.5 times greater than polygamy in legal communities.

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