Finance Committee Chairman Gafni
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Supreme Court President Beinish
Photo: Avishag Shear-Yeshuv

Gafni: Ruling on kolel student benefits 'unprofessional'

Knesset Finance Committee chairman slams High Court's demand to amend State budget by 2011; says 'court never rules in favor of haredim'

Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) continued to speak out against the High Court ruling to cancel by 2011 the State budget clause which grants income security to kolel students.


The Finance Committee chairman on Tuesday said it was a "low" ruling from a professional point of view, in which "there is no connection between one thing and another."


He added that the Finance Committee would discuss the ruling next week, and that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein would be invited to the debate, as well as representatives from the State Prosecutor's Office, Finance Ministry and Education Ministry.


Gafni noted that the committee had approved the budgetary allocation for 25 years, and that he intends to continue this practice.


"This allocation is the daily bread of thousands of families, and I don't intend to stop it because of the negligence of us Knesset members," he said. "I highly respect the judicial system but the High Court has never ruled in favor of the haredi sector."


Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinish referred in the ruling to the issue of discrimination, writing, "the feeling of discrimination undermines the fabric of society and the willingness of citizens to contribute to the State and integrate in society. Discrimination undermines public confidence in the government system, and heightens feelings that the regime operates arbitrarily."


Beinish also pointed an accusatory finger at the Knesset, noting, "This is especially the case regarding budgetary allocation that violates legislation, and works according to criteria that are not published and are not under public scrutiny."


"The difference in educational objectives (religious or professional studies) is not relevant," she continued. "Neither (of the two student groups) can work in order to earn a living. Both invest time and effort in their studies in a way that prevents them from supporting their families. But… according to current law, only one (group) is entitled to income support."


The Supreme Court president also rejected the State's claim that the aim of the paragraph is ideological, to encourage Torah study, and not economical.


"According to the criteria, not all kolel students are entitled to the benefit," the State claimed. "Thus, a student with just two children (and not three, as required) is not entitled. Does that mean the State is not interested in encouraging this student to study Torah?


"The answer is that the criteria are intended to determine a minimum threshold based on economic situation, and this threshold assumes, for example, that the economic situation of a three-child family will be harder than that of a two-child family… If the objective was merely to encourage study, all Kolel students would be eligible for income support."


פרסום ראשון: 06.15.10, 13:30
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