After students threatened to "take to the streets," Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday denied earlier reports that his ministry was planning to raise tuition fees.
"Dear students, you're being taken for a ride. Why? Because I woke up this morning to learn that a war was declared against non-existent budget cuts."
"When I came to the Finance Ministry, I was told there would be no small amount of spins, but this is beyond ridiculous. No one has decided to raise tuition, there are no ultimatums in the air, and had I thought the students would be harmed I would have driven home and protested against myself."
Lapid added, "So why did the Student Union representatives publish it? So that I would be forced to deny it and then they could say that they made me give in. It's kind of sad that the representatives of the youngest public in the country are using the tricks of the oldest politics."
Israeli students (Photo: Kobi Shmerkovich, Ben-Gurion University Student Union)
The finance minister went on to mention "Riki Cohen"
of the middle class again. "As you know, the upcoming budget will focus on the working person. Not just Riki Cohen, but also her son, who wants to study computer engineering. Because a student who has a temporary job and is preparing the academic basis for his professional life, is the core of the working person vision we are leading today.
"He is tomorrow's middle class. He is the backbone the economy will lean on in two or three years, when he completes his studies and enters the labor market. He is the person I want to help."
Lapid concluded by admitting that "the upcoming budget will not be easy, and we'll all have to chip in. But it will be the budget that will put the focus – for the first time – on the middle class, and the future's middle class as well."
The Student Union issued the following statement in response to Lapid's announcement: "We were glad to see the finance minister's commitment to protect the student public and the higher education system. Unfortunately, in yesterday's meeting we were presented with an ultimatum – either we accept an increase in tuition fees or that the higher education budget will be subject to painful cuts.
"We know that the student public is wise enough not to be fooled by spins. We call on the finance minister to sit with his senior office workers and stress to them the importance of protecting the students and his commitment that there will be no cuts whatsoever in Israel's higher education system."