Prime Minister under fire
Photo: Mark Israel Salem
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Minister Gilad Erdan
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Cabinet approves haredi allowance plan

Yeshiva students' allowance plan approved in spite of considerable opposition - 14 support plan, Shas abstains. 'Decision will perpetuate poverty, cause damage for generations to come,' says Minister Braverman

The cabinet on Sunday approved a plan that would extend haredi yeshiva students allowances by at least five years. Fourteen ministers voted in favor of the plan, including the ministers from Yisrael Beiteinu. The Labor Party ministers were among the eight who opposed the plan. Shas ministers abstained from the vote.


Student Union officials said in response that they were looking into all their option, including "turning to the High Court of Justice".

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"We are very disappointed with the government's decision not to include the modest outline in legislation, and doubt the intention to implement it," said Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli. "We have yet to say the last word and we're looking into ways of action."


The Kadima party slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the vote, saying that he "sold the Israeli public".


The party said in a statement that "in order to gain haredi support for the budget, Netanyahu chose the culture of lying at the expense of a shared burden and is forcing the public to pay for his government's survival. Netanyahu's bluff was exposed today."


Earlier, during a Likud party ministers' meeting, Gideon Saar, Gilad Erdan and Limor Livnat came out against the haredi yeshiva student allowance plan. The three were joined by Minisiter Yisrael Katz, who said that whatever the outcome, the Likud will lose. He warned that the Likud was "losing the public."


Minister Silvan Shalom called for the student budget to be increased and stated that a situation where haredi yeshiva students received government funds but students didn't was untenable.


Education Minister Saar told the Likud meeting, "The decision that will be implemented in five years doesn't affect nearly 90% of the haredi yeshiva students who are over 29 and receive assurance of income.


"I doubt whether the decision would withstand judicial examination, and I fear that we will pay a high price for this decision."


Prime Minister Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin defended the plan. Netanyahu claims that the plan isn't perfect but that it "is the maximum that can be achieved. Kadima never addressed the issue and gave the haredim more."


Steinitz said, "It is saddening that every issue that concerns haredim becomes a public and media argument that borders on hysteria."


He believes that the law includes a major turnabout: "The haredi population could, until this point, get an allowance for life, now they know in advance that they need to think of employment options within a few years and undergo professional or vocational training."


'Political prostitution'

The allowance plan drew opposition from other parties as well: Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman announced before the vote that he would oppose any proposals raised over the assurance of income for haredi yeshiva students.


"This is political prostitution. The haredim must be brought into the workforce and this isn't the decision that will make it happen," he said. "We have no leadership, certainly no courageous leadership. The decision will perpetuate poverty and cause damage for generations to come," the minister added.


According to the plan, over the next four years, no changes will be made to the funding of married yeshiva students who do not work and have three children. During the fifth year, the allowances for yeshiva students under the age of 29 who meet the allowance criteria, will be decreased by 75%.


Attila Somfalvi, Tomer Velmer and Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report




פרסום ראשון: 12.19.10, 14:51
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