Will Moshe Soon Be Able to Marry Binyamin?

Almost before the ink was dry on the Supreme Court’s highly controversial decision concerning same-sex marriage, Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon tweeted his support for a similar outcome in the Holy Land. To be sure, Mr. Ya’alon’s predilection for this issue has been known for some time now, at least since 2012, and in the run-up to the most recent Knesset elections, he showed that he had not changed his mind.

This, of course, brings to mind the question: Will Israel follow the tide in Europe and the U.S.?

If Israel were Tel Aviv, there might be a different answer, but the simple answer to the question is “no," certainly not under the present government. Here's why:

In case anyone in the audience needs reminding, homosexual activity is the subject of a Biblical prohibition (cf. Leviticus XVIII,22).

The present governing coalition in Israel has only a razor-thin majority of 61 seats (so narrow a coalition has happened only once before in Israeli history, in Menachem Begin’s second term; there must be something about Likud-led governments....), and thirteen of those seats are held by the staunchly Orthodox Shas and Yahadut haTorah parties. As Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot afford the defection of a single member of Knesset, the issue will not even come up on the agenda.

If we drill down more deeply below the two non-Zionist religious parties, we find that HaBayit haYehudi, though not formally a religious party since the 2013 reshaping of its party constitution, nonetheless still contains a formidable religious element in its Tequma faction, who are also highly unlikely to vote in favor of a prohibition whose nullification, the Torah warns, will result in the land “vomiting out” (ibid., v. 28) its Jewish inhabitants. Also, Likud itself has a fairly large contingent of religiously observant members, and more who are quite deeply traditional, aside from people like Mr. Ya’alon.

This has more generally been an issue on Israel’s Leftist fringe, Meretz having been a source of perennial “marriage equality” bills for years, which are always voted down. But Ya’alon’s warm embrace of the issue, as well as the advocacy of members of parties which regard themselves as domestic “centrists,” such as Yisrael Beiteinu (only “right wing” in its foreign policy), Kulanu, and Yesh Atid, suggest that it is beginning to make inroads among the secular population. However, demographic realities and proportional representation will continue to preclude such a measure becoming law any time in the near future.

As Professor Arnon Soffer has pointed out, the population trend in Israel greatly favors the religious sector, just in terms of natural increase. If one also factors in the fact that there is a very strong religious outreach effort being made by various organizations in Israel targeted primarily at the “traditional” Jewish population whose members tend to vote for Likud, and also that the overwhelming majority of new immigrants to Israel from the West are religiously observant, the proportion of the Israeli population likely to subscribe to traditional Jewish values is going up year on year. Professor Soffer predicts that the religious segment will be an actual majority by 2030, and the majority of that majority will be the so-called “Chareidi” population who tend to support parties such as Shas and Yahadut haTorah.

Add one more factor, the fact that aliya or Jewish immigration to Israel is somewhat offset by yerida or emigration from Israel, and the vast majority of yordim, for a variety of reasons, tend to be among the more secularly oriented parts of the population. There is also no provision for absentee ballots in Israeli elections, unless a citizen is stationed abroad as part of some diplomatic mission (though efforts have been made in the past to provide such a capability, no such law has ever been able to pass the Knesset).

Proportional representation, the system under which Israelis vote for Knesset members, means that every vote for a given party counts, regardless of what district it is cast in. Knesset members do not represent districts, as in the United States or Great Britain; they are elected at large across the country, an eventuality which prevents any substantial segment of the population from being stifled through gerrymandering, as so often happens in the United States.

So, no -- it is highly unlikely that any time soon Moshe will “marry” Binyamin.