Over the weekend, the ultra-Orthodox factions in the Knesset demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu solve the current yeshiva budget crisis. Following this announcement, parties outside the right-wing bloc are attacking the prime minister, claiming that he only wants to assist those who will provide him with crucial support on the issue of his immunity from prosecution.
MK Yair Lapid blamed Netanyahu for acquiescing to the the ultra-Orthodox demands in exchange for their support on the issue of immunity from prosecution, saying:
“The whole country is stuck. Grants to doctors in the periphery have been discontinued, but this is not interesting to Netanyahu. He is only interested in paying those he needs to for immunity”.
Member of Yisrael Beiteinu, MK Oded Forer said:
“There is no money for special education, no money for health, but once Litzman and Deri tweet, Netanyahu convenes an emergency hearing to find a way to transfer another 400 million shekel to the ultra-Orthodox parties – the most important thing [to him] is supporting immunity. Do not waste your time on the meeting, we will not allow such a transfer in the Finance Committee.”
Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni responded to these allegations and said in an interview:
“We have made it clear to him that we will not take up a ministerial position because it is a directive from the Torah Council, but instead we ask that he help us prevent the damage that may be caused to the yeshivas because of the political deadlock. They told me: ‘what do you want? The cuts are in all areas and in all government offices’, but I explained to them that this was something else entirely. You have to find a budget source for this, and the meetings should not be left in such a state. UTJ is fighting for this with all our might, trying to solve the problem with the officials. It is impossible to treat yeshivas just like any other budget cut in a government ministry, this is something else entirely, the situation is critical for the Torah world and I hope that with the help of God there will soon be a solution to this budget [problem], and that a friendly government will be established so that the yeshiva budget can be transferred retroactively and in the future. It’s up to us”.
Due to the crisis, Minister Yaakov Litzman met with Netanyahu on Wednesday and made it clear:
“This is a real problem. It is your duty to intervene here.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acquiesced to the request of the ultra-Orthodox parties and called a meeting.
The ultra-Orthodox party’s demand is to have a budget increase of 180 million shekel, bringing the current budget to 950 million shekel, following the budget cuts to the ministry of education.
Update: Netanyahu’s proposed meeting was canceled.