Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Kislev 5760 - November 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Fair Politics

Contrary to what the press usually writes, the chareidi community is severely victimized by discrimination in the heavy portions of the budget, and it is only in a few small niches that it manages to secure any advantage. Even these traditional preserves of the religious community have come under attack from the anti-religious Left and their pluralistic cronies. Now it seems that an Invisible Hand has turned what started as another grab from religious money into a broad administrative crisis that can only benefit us.

The Chairman of the Finance Committee opened what was supposed to be a routine meeting discussing the budget of the Ministry of Religions by asking a representative of the Attorney General's office to speak. This was an unprecedented step, and MKs Rabbis Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman of UTJ demanded to know why the budget discussions of the Ministry of Religions deserved this special privilege. Religious MKs have learned the hard way that surprises from the direction of the Israeli judiciary system are rarely pleasant.

The guest from the Attorney General's office had invited himself to explain to the members of the Finance Committee the recent High Court decision that found that the budget had not dealt fairly with the Israeli Conservative movement.

This did not sit well with the UTJ MKs. They reacted spontaneously: "What? The budget of the Ministry of Religions is illegal? What about the Farm Ministry? Let's see if its allocation of NIS 500 million to the kibbutzim is fair and equal? What about sports?"

In truth, the uninvited visitor represented an insult and a breaking down of the division of powers that characterizes a healthy democracy. Judicial review is bad enough the way it is currently practiced, but this would be judicial dictating and meddling in the legislative process.

Things quickly deteriorated and the chairman left the room for a few minutes to let things quiet down. When he came back, the Committee was ready.

They demanded nothing less than that the entire budget be sent back to the government for review and that it be certified by the Attorney General that it meets the Court's criteria for fairness before the Knesset Finance Committee will deal with it! They insisted that each paragraph and section must have the specific approval of the Attorney General or they would not consider it at all.

The State Budget is a thoroughly political document. It is riddled with all kinds of inequities -- as it should be. It should reflect policy decisions of the elected government about where to spend and where not to spend. One of the reasons that the government is elected is to spend the money of the State for certain ends. However, if the Court forces the budget of the Ministry of Religions to be allocated according to objective criteria of fairness, there is every reason to expect that the budgets of all the other ministries should meet the same standards.

Writing in the business daily Globes, Tzvi Lavi noted, "What began as a simple attempt to guarantee fairness in government support of religious institutions can now develop into a new allocation of the entire budget among the various sectors. First of all this will mean a significant increase in the budget of the Arab sector in all areas, and even an increase to the chareidi sector in education."

This is a development that we can only welcome. The inequities in the education budget dwarf the meager compensation that was traditionally thrown to the religious sector in the Ministry of Religions.

If the State money is truly given out fairly, we have a lot to gain.

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