Ministers and members of Knesset from the Labor party declare unequivocally Monday that they will not be able to tolerate the cutbacks in the state budget by the Finance Ministry. Some of them are already threatening to break apart the coalition. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon said, "there is no way the Labor party will stay in the government if the suggested cutbacks are passed."
Simhon estimated in closed conversations that the party won't be able to accept the current budget and will demand that the Knesset make changes, primarily in regards to university tuition, minimum wage, and a substantial decrease in structural changes in the economy planned for next year.
MK Shelly Yacimovich criticized the budget presented by the Finance Ministry to the government Monday. According to her, "Kadima wants us out of the government. There is no other explanation for this plan." MK Ephraim Sneh said, "the treasury's cutbacks represent damage targeting those who carried the war on their shoulders: Soldiers and students."
Education Minister Yuli Tamir sent an outraged letter to Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson in regards to his intention to raise university tuition by 50 percent in the next four years.
"I was astounded to read in the press that your ministry suggests a raise in the tuition of institutions for higher education without any coordination with me, despite the fact that you know quite well that such a proposal, presented by the Finance Ministry within the framework of the Economic Arrangements Law, hurts students and will result in severe damage to the accessibility of higher education," Tamir wrote in the letter.
Tamir also wrote, "especially irritating is the disgusting attempt to create a sense that there is any sort of connection between the suggested model and the Australian model. This is a manipulation with the intent of creating the impression that this model is acceptable to me or enjoys my support. I am very sorry that your ministry continues to be managed unilaterally, without coordinating or communicating with the Education Ministry. I see this as a severe administrative and moral mistake, which causes damage not only to students, but also to the management of the entire Israeli governmental system.
"I am requesting you to remove the stated proposal from the upcoming Economic Arrangements Law and to open talks with me, with representatives of the institutions of higher education, and with the student unions about the structure of tuition in the coming years."
Even acting Coalition Chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima) attacked the Finance Ministry's initiative: "I don't intend to cooperate in raising tuition for universities and colleges. That is spitting in the faces of those who risked their lives in the last war and have already paid a heavy price. I will do all in my capacity to thwart this initiative."
Students also understand that it is unlikely these cutbacks will be applied because of Olmert's coalition problems. Chairman of the Student Union, Gal Dei, said, "To everyone who is worried, the plan of the Finance Ministry won't be carried out because of the unstable government."
Moran Zelikovich contributed to this report