One of the outstanding products of civil-secular law in Israel is the institution of cohabitation. In Israeli law, the term “cohabiting couples” is used to refer to couples who conduct marriage-like relationships, but who, from a legal point of view, are not given the legal status of married couples. In Israel there is a trend toward narrowing the legal gap between cohabiting couples and married couples, and broadening the conditions that confer the status of cohabite. In present-day Israeli legal discourse, support for these trends is seen as a secular, liberal and progressive stance, while opposition to them is viewed as religious, moralistic and conservative.
This study aimed at enriching the public legal debate on cohabiting couples from a civil liberal point of view. In order to accomplish this task, I wish to re-examine the laws relating to cohabitation, in intention to break the conventional modes of thinking, and examine the laws dealing with cohabitation from an all-encompassing civil viewpoint, one which does not focus specifically on the unique Israeli context. Only after the more general discussion will we consider the position of Israeli law and consider the possibility of applying the general discussion to the specific Israeli context, keeping in mind the role of cohabitation in Israel as an alternative to the religious marriage. Previous projects I have conducted dealt specifically with the internal relationships including the mutual obligations between cohabitants. In this project, I wish to continue probing the Israeli family law situation but this time I wish to broaden the discussion by examining the external rights of cohabiting couples.
The discussion will expose the basic flaw in the Israeli context which makes the implementation of a fundamental civil structure difficult in terms of Israeli law. I shall explain why this flaw has a more serious impact in the context of “external rights” than in the context of internal commitment issues. Therefore beyond making proposals for specific amendments in relation to existing cohabitation laws, I shall clarify why it is necessary to develop additional alternatives to marriage which can also provide an alternative to cohabitation.