A late-night meeting concluded today that the vote on a new bill granting millions in state funding to yeshiva students, thereby bypassing the High Court of Justice’s ruling on the issue, is to be postponed.
“The prime minister will pass the law after it undergoes changes encouraging yeshiva students to go out to work. The proposed law does not change the status quo, which has existed for the past 30 years,” Netanyahu’s office stated tonight.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation was set to discuss the bill, proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) on Sunday, but on Shabbos it became evident that it had not garnered a sufficient majority to pass.
Along with Gafni, the meeting at Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s office was attended by Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, ultra-Orthodox members of the coalition, and aides to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
Earlier today, ministers from Yisrael Beiteinu, Labor, and the Likud said they would oppose the bill.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said, “The need to incorporate the haredi sector in all aspects of society, including the job market, is a top interest, and I believe we can reach agreements on all sides by considering the sector’s unique needs.”
Yisrael Beiteinu released a statement saying, “In addition to the fact that the bill blatantly discriminates against the Israeli students who serve in the IDF and pay taxes, it also perpetuates unemployment and encourages an entire sector not to go out to work, and harms the Israeli economy.”
But Netanyahu’s office stated that the stipend has existed for 20 years, and that the bill simply anchors it in the law. “The prime minister did not invent it and is not changing it. The High Court has ordered that it must be anchored in legislation, and that is why the current arrangement is undergoing a process of legislation,” the statement said.
Itzik Shmueli, who chairs the National Student Union, said the bill was “a slap in the face” for 280,000 students. “I hope government ministers will refrain from dropping such a bomb on the heads of Israel’s youths,” he said.
But Gafni claims the Knesset’s Finance Committee has data proving that the students of Israel’s higher education institutions receive substantially more than yeshiva students from the state.
“There is nothing in this bill requesting even a shekel more than what is currently given to yeshiva students by many previous governments of Israel. The budget for income insurance is intended for the weakest sector in Israeli society and it will continue to exist as it has until now,” he said.