A proposal to make slight across-the-board cuts in allotments
spending, thereby saving Bituach Leumi the same amount as the
severe cuts in allotments to large families, was rejected
outright by ranking Finance Ministry officials, apparently
for ideological reasons.
According to economists, the Finance Ministry could cut just
3-4 percent off of all payments by Bituach Leumi (survivors
benefits, old-age benefits, etc.) instead of slashing just
children's allowances by up to 80 percent. They say such
equally distributed cuts would amount to single-digit
reductions for many that are hardly felt rather than lopsided
severe reductions for a few.
The Finance Ministry is maintaining a hard-line approach on
the issue despite warning from Bituach Leumi officials that
the planned financial blow will increase the number of poor
families to 19.5 percent, adding 11,000 families and 83,000
children to the cycle of poverty. According to Bituach Leumi
statistics the additional cut will affect 192,000 already
poor families, of which 105,000 are families with three
children or more. Eighty-three percent of the total cut falls
on the bottom fifth of the population.
"Even before the new plan the situation was horrendous," says
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, of the Association for Children's
Welfare. "Applications for assistance are pouring in.
Families report they are unable to purchase medicine or pay
for basic educational services, not to mention a severe
shortage of food." Kadman says even official welfare programs
have contacted him. "This is the height of absurdity, for
welfare services to contact us, a voluntary organization,
asking for help. The entire system is in a state of
Attorney Yuval Elbashan, of the Bureau of Social
Organizations says, "People are in depression and despair;
many have lost hope. It must be kept in mind that these are
parents who are willing to do just about anything to bring
home a living and now, like a deathblow, their allotments are
The outright rejection of viable alternatives to slashing
children's allotments demonstrates that the proposed cut is
not guided by economic considerations alone. As one ranking
official explained last week, "This is evil for the sake of
evil and nothing can be done about it. Lapid demanded this
clause and was not willing to exchange the cut for any other.
This is a very open secret in the political establishment. A
contract has been taken out against the chareidi sector,
which has yet to realize that a war to have them ostracized
has been declared. They are trying various lobbies but fail
to grasp that Tomi Lapid will never agree to yield on this
demand. He will not give up on children's allowances, but
will fight over every shekel."
Shinui is not alone in its battle against the allotments for
large families. Likud ministers have also expressed
gratification over the decision saying, "Shinui is doing the
job for us."
"Shinui is the blackest party in politics," says Elbashan.
"The heads of government have managed to create a classic
[situation of] divide and conquer. They led a whole campaign
against the children's allowances for the chareidim with the
goal of confusing the masses and creating a clear link
between money, children and chareidim. Protected by the
[constant] incitement the cut is quietly going through and
with the enthusiastic consent of many secularists, who fail
to realize that everyone stands to suffer from this horrible