Photo: Aner Green
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett
Photo: Aner Green
Bennett's party backtracks move to cut funds for yeashivas
After marathon talks between Finance Ministry and Bennett's religious party, previous decision to cut funding for yeshivas gets snubbed, allegedly in bid to promise same level of support for religious students, but could Bennett be trying to placate haredim?

The government has backtracked on its decision to cut more than 130 million NIS (roughly $37 million) in funding from yeshivas – haredi facilities in which ultra-orthodox men study Torah.



The State's funding of yeshivas is controversial because the facilities are considered by some as sheltered hotbeds for haredi men who wish to study instead of working or enlisting into the IDF at the taxpayers expense.


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MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) who heads the Knesset's Finance Committee said "we will continue to support the world of Torah in its entirety, in a bid to preserve the Jewish character of the State of Israel and to maintain the values of a Jewish home" which is also the name of the Habayit Hayehudi (literally Jewish Home) party from which Slomiansky stems.


The term 'world of Torah', as well as claims of its targeting at the hands of the government, were sounded against Finance Minister Yaid Lapid and his party Yesh Atid after they began to push for enlistment of haredi men into the army.


At the time, similar claims were made against Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and his party Habayit Hayehudi for cooperating with Lapid in his initiative to instate universal conscription in Israel.


Bennett claimed that he and his party would work to integrate haredi men into the workforce, and thus explained their support for haredi enlistment into the army. Slomiansky's announcement seems to backtrack from this policy-line, preferring to placate the haredi community with funds instead of forcing them into the workforce or army by threat of divestment.


The decision will in fact refund the yeshivas with NIS 130 million already cut from their budget, and will thus return the level of monetary support to its 2013 level, before Bennett and Lapid were elected and in power.


It is important to note that the funds are not intended for solely haredi institutions, but also for those belonging to the religious-Zionists community which is Bennett's main constituency.


According to Slomiansky the decision was taken after a long marathon meeting with the Finance Ministry (headed by Lapid) and a PAC which Slomiansky heads and includes Bennett and MK Ayalet Shaked - also from the Habayit Hayehudi party.


State funding for the Yeshiva was just shy of a billion shekels in 2012, before the last election, and begun shrinking in the 2012/2013 biannual budget. In 2013 it dropped to NIS 650 million ($186 million) but recived an extra NIS 130 million thus reaching NIS 780 million ($224 million). In 2014, the base budget was cut to NIS 450 million and was expected to rise to NIS 580 million because of the additional NIS 130 million allocated in 2013.


However, even after the budget cut secured by Bennett's party, the funding dropped by 200 million in comparison to the final budget at the end of last year.


This last 200 million, Habayit Hayehudi claims, is a result of a drop in the number of haredi students enlisting into the yeshivas, and thus the decision to backtrack from the budget cut was undertaken in a bid to promise the same level of government support per student, despite the drop in budgetary support.


"I want to thank the Finance Ministry's representatives for their understanding and support, I also want to thank Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Ayelet Shaked for the effort they made in supporting this struggle," Slomiansky said.



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