"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."
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
Ronen Medzini • Ynet
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 options, including "turning to the High Court of Justice".
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."
"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."
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."
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.
Here is the Ha'aretz report:
Cabinet approves bill excusing ultra-Orthodox from IDF service
Bill also approves limiting the time yeshiva students can receive government stipends to five years.
The cabinet approved on Sunday two recommendations affecting the ultra-Orthodox community, one of which will release most of them from mandatiory military service in exchange for alternative work in a civilian service.
The second proposal was to accept the recommendations of an interministerial committee to limit to five years the time yeshiva students can receive stipends. In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced that 50 million additional shekels would be given to aid other students in need in conjunction with the proposals dealing with yeshiva students.
The proposals passed with 14 ministers voting in support, eight voting against, and three abstaining.
To be exempt from military service according to the recommendations, Haredim would have to do a year of alternative service with the police, the Magen David Adom ambulance service, the Fire and Rescue Services or the Prison Service. The arrangement would apply to married students up to age 22 if they have no children, or bachelors over 24.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak supports the arrangement, but sources have told Haaretz that the Israel Defense Forces is not in favor of some of the recommendations, believing that the army should be able to choose the Haredim it needs before they are referred to alternative service.
The IDF is also said to believe that the minimum ages for drafting Haredim into the emergency services are too low because they exempt the ultra-Orthodox from full military service at a very early age.
Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was not invited to Sunday morning's cabinet meeting. Brig. Gen. Amir Rogovsky, chief of planning and human resources at the personnel directorate, represented the army. Rogovsky had been invited to address another issue at the meeting, although on Saturday night it appeared that the head of the personnel directorate, Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, might speak for the IDF on the Haredim.
Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman opposed the five-year cap on stipends to Haredim. "The prime minister is choosing a political compromise over a courageous decision that would bring good tidings to the Haredim and limit the inequality of the burden," he said.
Kadima called on Netanyahu to bring the issue to a vote in the Knesset.
"Netanyahu is once again lying to the public, fleeing responsibility and selling the country's values for the sake of personal survival," Kadima said.
The prime minister apparently prefers to make do with a cabinet decision out of concern that during the legislative process, lawmakers would try to insert objections into a bill or increase the funding to students in academic frameworks beyond what the recommendations call for.