Following six months of delays and exhausting struggles by
chareidi representatives in the Knesset Finance Committee
against MK Roni Brizon (Shinui), on Monday the committee
approved the transfer of NIS 32 million in yeshiva funding
from 2003 budget surplus.
Brizon, who tried to torpedo the transfer until the very last
moment, announced he intends to file a High Court appeal to
prevent the transfers from being executed.
The transfer was approved in two votes. First the committee
members voted on whether to designate it "a special case"
based on a demand by Knesset Legal Advisor Attorney A.
Schneider. This vote won a majority of supporters from the
coalition parties--Likud, HaIchud HaLeumi and NRP--which were
joined by UTJ and Shas, and even MK Chaim Oron of Meretz. The
two Shinui MKs were the only opponents. Labor representatives
abstained. The second vote, on the transfer itself, brought
the same results except that Oron also abstained.
The NIS 32 million are divided as follows: 18 million are
designated for kollel budgets, 12 million for yeshiva
budgets and another 2 million for Hesder yeshivas.
Chareidi MKs were ready for action from the morning since
last week the Finance Ministry promised to bring the matter
before the Finance Committee on Monday. Indeed the request
arrived in the morning but Committee Chairman MK Avraham
Hirshzon announced that the issue would be the last item on
the day's agenda. When the matter was raised at 8:00 p.m.
following a long day of meetings, the chareidi MKs decided
not to respond to MK Brizon's attacks in order to allow the
vote to be held as early as possible and to avoid raising
tempers which could hurt the chances of passing the budget
When the Knesset Legal Advisor told MKs that according to
regulations two votes must be held, one to define the matter
as a special case since usually money from a budget surplus
may only be used in the first month of the new year. The
second vote would be for the actual transfer. MK Brizon
demanded that she define the term "special case." She said
she could not provide legal advice on the matter but rather
that the MKs would have to decide based on the facts.
After the transfer was passed the chareidi MKs shook hands
with Committee Chairman Hirshzon, thanking him for keeping
the proceedings quick. MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni told MK Brizon
that if he goes to the High Court the yeshivas could wind up
receiving more funding since the NIS 32 million they approved
was insufficient to cover everything the State promised.
MK Rabbi Yisroel Eichler explained that "while the Soton is
dancing" one must go ever so quietly, so the chareidi MKs had
no alternative other than to grin and bear the disparaging
remarks. "Billions are passed here every day," he said, "and
only when money to the yeshivas is approved is there such a
scandal here. But the objective is the most important thing,
and boruch Hashem it was achieved."
The Finance Committee also approved budget transfers for the
religious councils and the Rabbinate botei din on