At the end of a long day of marathon meetings the Knesset
Finance Committee decided to include the religious council
employees in new legislation to regulate salary payments for
local authority employees.
A proposal approved in a first reading in a Knesset plenum a
few days earlier did not include the religious council
workers, but chareidi MKs responded with staunch protest.
"This is an act of discrimination," MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni
cried out. During subsequent Finance Committee meetings to
prepare the legislation for second and third readings they
reiterated the crisis religious council workers are facing
and insisted that they be included in the proposed law in
order to solve the problem.
The proposed law would allow any local authority that agrees
to take part in a recovery program and appoints a special
accountant, to open a bank account immune from being attached
or frozen, to which salary funds would be transferred. Since
most of the local authorities are in deficit, if there is any
money in their accounts, one of their creditors will seize
it. To prevent this from happening with money that is
allocated for workers' salaries, a special law is being
The committee meetings continued all day due to opposition by
various figures. The banks voiced firm opposition and even
threatened to appeal to the High Court and to choke the local
authorities by blocking all credit routes. The banks claimed
circumventing them should be out of the question because
doing so would undermine economic guidelines and their lawful
priority as creditors.
As part of attempts to reach a compromise, Committee Chairman
Avraham Hirshzon interrupted the meetings several times to
allow meetings with bank association representatives, but the
various sides were unable to find middle ground even late
into the night.
Local authority representatives also opposed the law,
claiming it would not solve the problem since the law
determines salaries would only be paid to workers at
authorities that enter a recovery program and appoint a
special accountant. They demanded the law be simplified to
just a few lines saying funds would be transferred to the
local authorities to pay employees' salaries and that
attachments could not be placed on these funds without
mentioning a recovery program.
Chareidi MKs also voiced opposition, insisting religious
council workers be included in the law. After hours of
meetings and at the end of a conference held in the committee
chairman's chamber it was agreed to include the religious
council workers in the law by writing a similar clause
stating that salary funds transferred to religious councils
cannot have attachments placed on them. The law was approved
late at night at a meeting attended by Hirshzon, Interior
Minister Poraz and MKs Rabbi Gafni, Rabbi Litzman, Dehan and
Brizon and approved the next day to allow the Finance
Ministry to transfer the salary funds immediately.
A few days later Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the
crises at the local authorities and the religious councils
would come to an end with the passage of the law in the
Knesset, saying the crisis at the local authorities had
exceeded all reasonable limits. Every ministry laid blame on
another ministry, leaving the workers without their
"The legislative system did not allow us to resolve the
predicament and channel funds to people who work and suffer
from not receiving their salaries," said Netanyahu. "I have
reached the conclusion that the only way to overcome the laws
is through a law. I asked for a law agreeable to all of the
ministries to be brought to me within 24 hours. It was done.
I said we would bring it to the cabinet [meeting] the
following Sunday. This, too, was done. I said we would
legislate it through lightening-fast legislation. This was
done yesterday. I believe that within a few days we will see
the money flow to the salaries that people have been yearning
[to receive] for many months."