Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5766 - June 14, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











NIS 290 to be Transferred to Chareidi Institutions Following Budget Deal

By E. Rauchberger

The budget was approved in a 35-22 vote last week after the Economic Arrangements Law passed with a large majority.

A large majority was ensured after the government and the Finance Ministry reached agreements with three opposition parties to transfer funding in certain areas in exchange for promises not to vote against the budget and the Arrangements Law. Most of the opposition parties abstained, but that allowed the law to pass.

Among the parties was UTJ, which received a pledge to transfer NIS 290 million ($65 million) for chareidi schools, yeshivas and kollelim based on an agreement UTJ and the Finance Ministry signed last year. Avigdor Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beiteinu, received an NIS-180 million ($40 million) pledge for issues related to new immigrants and HaIchud HaLeumi-NRP received an NIS-122 million ($27-million) pledge for issues related to Zionism and Gush Katif evacuees.

A total of 26 MKs abstained or were absent from the vote as a result of these agreements, which cost the government a total of NIS 600 million ($135 million) and guaranteed it a majority in support of the budget, even if certain coalition members rebelled by failing to vote in favor.

Opposition members from Meretz, the Likud and the Arab parties criticized the government's policy of forging agreements with opposition parties to persuade them to abstain from the vote. Finance Minister Abraham Hirshson rejected their criticism, saying agreements have always been made with parties and since the government represents everyone it is prepared to give funding to every segment of the population and for every issue important to MKs, in a fair and carefully-weighed manner.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni lodged criticism against the budget during the concluding discussion on the Arrangements Law, saying that in contrast to the declarations made by the present government to submit a compassionate budget, the 2006 budget does not contain any compassion and is identical to the budget formulated by Binyamin Netanyahu. He went on to criticize various areas cut mercilessly, citing a Health Ministry cut of NIS 70 million ($15 million) for the feeble- minded, although this funding is a matter of life and death. "This is one paragraph that has been neglected. Almost nothing has been said about it. But it borders on pikuach nefesh. The feeble-minded must be rehabilitated and today there are developments in the form of community treatment. This cut damages human life in the fullest sense."

Rabbi Gafni said the Finance Ministry would invariably say it has nowhere to take the NIS 70 million from, but this is certainly untrue since at least NIS 3-4 billion is given to the rich. "For the feeble-minded at the Health Ministry — there is no money," he said. "For single parents — no money. For the elderly — no money. But for the rich, there is."

He noted the government coffers were filled last year and there was no need to make any cuts that take away from important issues in order to fund coalition commitments made to the Pensioners, Shas and Labor. Hardly any sections of the Education Ministry budget were cut with the exception of yeshiva funding, he said. "This is almost the only paragraph in which cuts were made. Almost nothing else was cut. Not units at central staff headquarters, not the Education Ministry administration, not the department heads. Nothing. Almost the only paragraph at the Education Ministry that was cut was the Torah-based institutions."

In conclusion he defended the agreement made with UTJ, saying it rectified many years of discrimination and distortions, and even now the amount being given would not make up for the slashing of chareidi institutions done by the Sharon-Shinui government.


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