Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
on Sunday appointed
a committee of experts to discuss the public raw sparked by a new bill
aimed at granting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students stipends, but Ynet learned Monday that Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz added the bill's cost – NIS 111 million (about $30 million) – in the state budget for the next two years, which is expected to be approved by the Knesset.
The committee, headed by the prime minister's chief of staff, Eyal Gabai, was slated to discuss the issue over the next three weeks.
Opposition lawmakers were infuriated by the move. The Kadima
party issued a statement saying that "Netanyahu is breaking new records of cynicism, impudence and contempt against the public in Israel. On Sunday he announced that a committee would be established, and on Monday he pushes the yeshiva student funds into the budget. This is a shameful standard of deception and a despicable low in governmental norms."
According to Kadima, "The Labor Party,
(Education Minister) Gideon Sa'ar of the Likud
and all those who spoke in favor of students and against the yeshiva law should keep their promise and vote against the budget and against any trick initiated by Netanyahu and (United Torah Judaism
MK Moshe) Gafni, instead of lending a hand to this High Court bypassing shame."
MK Yohanan Plesner said that "the prime minister has no problem deceiving the public and paying his political partners the full price they have demanded."
According to MK Ronit Tirosh, "It turns out that the committee is nothing but a deception. The Israeli student's intelligence is being disregarded. They won't remain silent until a formula for an equal allocation of the State's resources is found."
Labor MK Eitan Cabel responded angrily as well. "The government is stealing from the citizens of the State of Israel and lying to them shamelessly. I call on the Labor faction members to vote against the budget, and quit the coalition immediately."
The Prime Minister's Office said in response that "the government in acting in accordance with a High Court ruling to regulate the assured income for yeshiva students. At the same time, the government is working to encourage yeshiva students to undergo professional training and integrate into the labor market.
"By the end of the year, before the budget law passes its second and third readings, the government will determine a legal arrangement for granting the support according to the High Court's demand. If the process is not completed by the time the budget law is approved, the budget allotted to the yeshiva students will be turned over to the state budget's general reserve."
A senior Treasury official said that "the issue is in the budget law, as it has been in the past 30 years, subject to the decisions of the committee appointed by the government to discuss the matter."
Earlier Monday, the Labor faction announced that it would lead a battle against the law within the government. "The faction is united in the opinion that the right thing for the State and for the public of yeshiva students is to integrate them into the labor market."
Zvi Lavi contributed to this report