After intensive debates and political haggling, the Cabinet on Sunday approved lateral budget cuts in order to implement the free education law, which will include all children from the age of three.
The law was passed with 21 votes in favor and 8 votes against, after Shas was granted its demands. Members of Yisrael Beiteinu and Independence factions opposed the bill.
- Steinitz: Defense budget can withstand cuts
Shas to oppose lateral budget cuts
Netanyahu: Free education for everyone
Speaking at a press conference shortly after the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the government has made "an unprecedented decision that constitutes a change in Israel's priorities.
"We have been speaking about a free education law for 27 years, but no one has ever implemented it until now. We are correcting a historic distortion, and it is a great blessing," he said.
Asked about the defense budget, Netanyahu said: "The Trachtenberg report initially proposed to fund the new law by cutting the defense budget, but I have considered the matter and come to the conclusion that it would be a mistake to cut the budget, and in fact it must be increased.
"Therefore, we are adding NIS 3 billion to the defense budget, but we're also increasing the transparency and accountability, which will help me and future prime ministers to monitor the budget more closely," Netanyahu added.
'Selling IDF short'
Prior to the vote, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who opposed the new bill, said: "Young couples serving in the army, working and paying taxes are the first ones who should be granted free education for children ages three and over."
Lieberman stated his belief that the lateral budgetary cuts should not be applied to children whose parents did not served in the IDF. "There's no logic in Israel subsidizing the Sicarii from Beit Shemesh or the Islamic movement operators," he said.
Responding to Lieberman's remarks, Netanyahu said: "Everyone will get free education from the age of 3, without any discrimination between sectors. Those opposing free education are hurting disadvantaged populations and young couples."
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz also lamented the impending vote, saying "They're selling the IDF short here!"
During the meeting, the chief of staff butted heads with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz after the former called the expected budget cut "nonsense," to which Steinitz responded by telling him to speak only when he is granted permission. Gantz then told the minister to "honor those who where uniform."
Omri Efraim contributed to this report
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