Mazuz, against decision
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Haredim getting special treatment?
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Mazuz: Jerusalem Municipality favors haredim

Outgoing attorney general joins appeal filed against City Council's decision to fund activity of unofficial ultra-Orthodox educational institutions, while discriminating against other sectors

Outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has decided to join a petition against the Jerusalem Municipality's decision to fully fund the activity of ultra-Orthodox educational institutions, while clearly discriminating against other sectors.


Mazuz wrote in a statement delivered to the city's administrative court, which has been obtained by Ynet, that he authorizes "any advocate from the State Prosecutor's Office" to represent him in a petition against the municipality filed by the Israel Religious Action Center, claiming that the principle of equality has been badly damaged.


Under Israeli law, the State provides funding of 65-75% to recognized unofficial schools, which do not offer "core studies". According to some of the criteria, the local authorities may fully fund some institutions, prompting the Jerusalem Municipality to apply the budget increment to local haredi institutions but not to Arab schools.


The Jerusalem Municipality's legal counsel, Attorney Yossi Havilio, issued a document supporting the stand that the move damages the principle of equality. Mayor Nir Barkat ignored it and chose to adopt the opinion of a private lawyer given to his deputy, Rabbi Yitzhak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism).


This is the second time the legal advisor and mayor clash on a legal matter. Last week, Havilio revealed what he said was an illegal request made by the City Council to the Israel Police to delay the implementation of a court order calling for the evacuation of a Jewish structure located in east Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood. Mazuz backed Havilio, saying the Jerusalem Municipality was continuously "failing to honor orders".


Council members object

The decision to increase the haredi institutions' budget was made by the City Council during a meeting which many council members were absent from due to their anger over the move. Council Member Laura Wharton (Meretz) sent Barkat a letter slamming "the despicable decision on the funding of education institutions."


According to Wharton, "The 'Torah education network' and 'independent education' are education institutions in which civic studies, history and English and not taught. The level of mathematics there is very poor. The budgets allotted to these institutions will be taken from much more worthy institutions – of the state education, which are in desperate need of resources."


Wharton added that "there is no explanation" for the decision to favor haredi educational institutions, "besides the political pressure applied by the factions affiliated with them." She expressed support of Attorney Havilio's opinion and protested the fact that it was not backed by the mayor."


"The attorney general must receive full support just as the rule of law must receive full support. Instead, the proposal of a private attorney was accepted by a biased faction member," Wharton said, stressing that, prior to his election, Barkat himself had vehemently objects to appeals by private attorney.


Attorney Einat Horowitz, head of the legal department at the Israeli Religious Action Center, said in response: "The main importance of this case is determining the red lines for authorities' conduct in matters pertaining to funding haredi networks.


"We are pleased that the outgoing attorney general shares our position, according to which the automatic preference of haredi groups when it comes to city budgeting jeopardizes equality and is illegal. The Jerusalem Municipality, like any other municipality in the country, has a diverse population with varying needs, and it should determine budgeting that will meet the needs of the entire population equally and not automatically prefer the haredi public."


Municipality: In line with ministry's policies

 The Jerusalem Municipality told Ynet in response: "The decision is in line with the policy of the Education Ministry, which also funds the institutions in full, and has been in action for many years now.


"The City Council's decision added conditions for the transfer of funds which include, among other things, acceptance to the schools without any religious discrimination, conditions that the educational institutions do not charge tuition and operate according to the Education Ministry's curriculum. The decision applies to all schools that meet the criteria of recognized unofficial schools, just as defined by the Education Ministry."


In response to the legal opinions, the municipality said: "Two legal opinions were submitted, and the country chose to accept one of them – as the law allows in such cases… Not making a decision would have put the schools in an unnecessary state or uncertainty, and a change to the criteria, as proposed by the attorney general, would have brought with it significant budgetary damage to the city."


פרסום ראשון: 01.18.10, 16:42
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