Prime Minister announces bill circumventing Supreme Court ruling and granting yeshiva students millions in state funds will be altered to encourage them to work beforethe bill is brought to vote, after Labor Party and Yisrael Beiteinu MKs announce their opposition.
Vote on yeshiva student bill postponed
Netanyahu announces bill granting yeshiva students millions in state funds will be altered to encourage them to work before being brought to vote, after Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu ministers announce their opposition
Roni Sofer • Ynet
A late-night meeting concluded Saturday that the vote on a new bill granting millions in state funding to yeshiva students, thereby bypassing the High Court of Justice's ruling on the issue, is to be postponed.
"The prime minister will pass the law after it undergoes changes encouraging yeshiva students to go out to work. The proposed law does not change the status quo, which has existed for the past 30 years," Netanyahu's office stated Saturday night.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation was set to discuss the bill, proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) on Sunday, but on Saturday it became evident that it had not garnered a sufficient majority to pass.
Along with Gafni, the meeting at Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz's office was attended by Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, ultra-Orthodox members of the coalition, and aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Earlier Saturday, ministers from Yisrael Beiteinu, Labor, and the Likud said they would oppose the bill.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said, "The need to incorporate the haredi sector in all aspects of society, including the job market, is a top interest, and I believe we can reach agreements on all sides by considering the sector's unique needs."
Yisrael Beiteinu released a statement saying, "In addition to the fact that the bill blatantly discriminates against the Israeli students who serve in the IDF and pay taxes, it also perpetuates unemployment and encourages an entire sector not to go out to work, and harms the Israeli economy."
But Netanyahu's office stated that the stipend has existed for 20 years, and that the bill simply anchors it in the law. "The prime minister did not invent it and is not changing it. The High Court has ordered that it must be anchored in legislation, and that is why the current arrangement is undergoing a process of legislation," the statement said.
Itzik Shmueli, who chairs the National Student Union, said the bill was "a slap in the face" for 280,000 students. "I hope government ministers will refrain from dropping such a bomb on the heads of Israel's youths," he said.
But Gafni claims the Knesset's Finance Committee has data proving that the students of Israel's higher education institutions receive substantially more than yeshiva students from the state.
"There is nothing in this bill requesting even a shekel more than what is currently given to yeshiva students by many previous governments of Israel. The budget for income insurance is intended for the weakest sector in Israeli society and it will continue to exist as it has until now," he said.
Zvi Lavi and Kobi Nahshoni contrbuted to this report.
Here is the Ha'aretz report:
Government suspends voting on controversial yeshiva student bill
Labor, Israel Beiteinu ministers outraged by 'discriminatory bill '; Finance Minister negotiates revised version with ultra-Orthodox MKs.
By Jonathan Lis • Ha’aretz
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will delay its vote on a bill allocating income allowances to full-time yeshiva students by two to three weeks.
The bill was introduced this week by the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), but drew fierce criticism from ministers and members of the opposition alike.
The Labor and Israel Beiteinu parties announced earlier on Saturday that their ministers would vote against the bill.
Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) said on Saturday that the bill sabotages attempts to incorporate the ultra-Orthodox sector in the job market.
Israel Beiteinu released a statement saying its ministers would oppose the bill, as it "perpetuates unemployment and damages the Israeli economy."
"Furthermore, the bill bluntly discriminates against Israeli university students who serve in the army and pay their taxes," the statement said.
Following the criticism, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) met Saturday with ultra-Orthodox MKs including Gafni and Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) to negotiate a new version of the bill, which will be presented to the other members of the coalition on Sunday.
United Torah Judaism and Shas, both members of the governing coalition, have made their support for the 2011-2012 budget conditional on the acceptance of the estimated NIS 150 million in allowances for yeshiva students.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not have a Knesset majority for the budget without the two parties, and if the budget is not passed by March 31, new elections will have to be called within 90 days. Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz are keen to pass the budget and Economic Arrangements Bill by the end of December.
The High Court of Justice banned similar payments in June, saying they discriminated against students in academic institutions in favour those in yeshivas, and ordered them stopped as of 2011.