Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Kislev 5765 - December 1, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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UTJ Signs Support Agreement with Government; Shinui Cannot Tolerate any Money going for Chareidim

By Eliezer Rauchberger, Betzalel Kahn, and M. Plaut

United Torah Jewry will vote for the national budget for 2005 and the Arrangements Law under an agreement reached Sunday between party representatives and a Finance Ministry representative. The agreement includes a transfer of NIS 290 million for yeshivas, kollelim, talmudei Torah and other educational institutions as well as a pledge by the government not to impose further disproportionate cutbacks on funding for the chareidi sector. As soon as it was announced, Shinui said it would not vote for a budget that includes money for chareidim.

Sharon appears to be determined not to capitulate to Shinui's threats to resign from the coalition. Defending the UTJ agreement he said, "During the past two years extensive cuts were made in chareidi sector support, far beyond what we were compelled to do in the framework of the economic program in the rest of the economy, and the amounts that will be restored are very reasonable."

Regarding Shinui's threat to resign he said these funds "cannot serve as an excuse not to support the government in such an important vote." Rejecting the threat he said, "We will not consent to have one party or another impose an opinion that conflicts with the general public interest. I would not allow Shinui to dictate to us how to act with respect to other parties. I always rejected this on the spot. The moment there was an attempt by Shinui to impose bans I rejected it on the spot. And as such I even made it a point yesterday to have an agreement signed with UTJ . . . The agreement with UTJ cannot serve as an excuse for anybody not to vote in favor of the budget. It is not a question of money but a question of stability," Sharon concluded.

The Prime Minister stressed he has no "objections to the addition of any party, based on the government's policy decisions, including the addition of Shas." However, "if Shas' stance is against the government disengagement program, my allowing them to join is out of the question. The government has reached a decision and it will be carried out. Nobody is under the impression we will bring someone in to sit on the government and vote against [its stated policy]. A state cannot manage its affairs based on [flighty] decisions. This would be irresponsible." He also called on all Likud members, including the rebel faction, to support all government decisions in the Knesset votes.

The agreement was signed by MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Yaakov Litzman as well as Kobi Haber, head of the budget department at the Finance Ministry. UTJ committed to vote in favor of the budget in all three plenum readings and also in the various committee meetings.

The agreement was reached after weeks of negotiations with representatives from both the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office. The four components of the agreement are:

1. No special budget cuts will be imposed on the chareidi sector beyond the cuts imposed on all other sectors.

2. The Prime Minister's Office will continue accelerated handling of the issue of Religious Councils in order to provide decent religious services.

3. NIS 140 million will be budgeted for advanced yeshivas and kollelim.

4. NIS 150 million will be budgeted for the following: kindergartens, busing, seminaries, dormitories, student insurance, Jewish culture and talmudei Torah.

Tuesday the government intends to bring the 2005 budget and the Arrangements Law to the Knesset for a first reading. Deliberations over both issues were held one month ago but the vote was postponed due to the lack of a majority in the government. Since then the government has been conducting negotiations with various parties to build a majority and UTJ is the first to sign an agreement despite the fact it is an opposition party.

The agreement only commits UTJ to support the government on the budget, but not on no-confidence votes, legislation proposals, etc. The government tried to persuade UTJ to back it on these issues as well, but UTJ representatives rejected this demand, saying they were negotiating on the budget alone.

The government is also close to reaching an agreement with the NRP despite its resignation from the coalition just two weeks ago. In exchange for its support of the budget the government will allocate NIS 130 million for Hesder yeshivas, ulpanot and other national-religious bodies and institutions.

According to assessments the government is assured of 52-53 votes for the budget vote. This figure includes the Likud's 40 MKs, 5 from UTJ, 5 from the NRP and MKs Michael Nudelman and David Tal (MK Eitam is out of the country). Shinui announced it would not support the budget even though it is part of the coalition, due to the increased funding for yeshivas and kollelim. Sharon said he would fire Shinui ministers who vote against the government.

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said on the issue of funding demands for religious matters he has coordinated with the UTJ representatives who signed the agreement with the government.

In addition to UTJ and the NRP the Likud claims two Arab MKs from the United Arab List, Abdulmalik Dehamshe and Talab El- Sana, might support the budget or abstain in exchange for various monetary commitments. Minister Ehud Olmert conducted the negotiations with the two Arab MKs.

If Shinui leaves the government, there is speculation that the Likud Central Committee would approve a government incorporating UTJ and Labor, even though it has rejected a government with Labor in the past.


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