The cabinet decided Sunday to limit the period during which married yeshiva students are entitled to stipends to five years. The decision will only be fully implemented, however, in another five years.
Fourteen ministers, including the ministers from Yisrael Beiteinu, five from the Labor Party and three from LIkud voted in favor of the proposal. Likud ministers Gideon Sa'ar, Gilad Erdan and Limor Livnat voted against. The Shas party's ministers as well as vice premier Silvan Shalom of Likud obtained.
An additional proposal, which would have provided exemptions for most ultra-Orthodox men from conscription into the Israel Defense Forces in return for civilian service, was not debated by the cabinet due to lack of time. The discussion on the five-year stipend limitation was debated for more than three hours and featured intense arguments among ministers.
To be exempt from military service according to the recommendations, Haredim would have to do a year of alternative service with the police, the Magen David Adom ambulance service, the Fire and Rescue Services or the Prison Service. The arrangement would apply to married students up to age 22 if they have no children, or bachelors over 24.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak supports the arrangement, but sources have told Haaretz that the Israel Defense Forces is not in favor of some of the recommendations, believing that the army should be able to choose the Haredim it needs before they are referred to alternative service.
The IDF is also said to believe that the minimum ages for drafting Haredim into the emergency services are too low because they exempt the ultra-Orthodox from full military service at a very early age.
Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was not invited to Sunday morning's cabinet meeting. Brig. Gen. Amir Rogovsky, chief of planning and human resources at the personnel directorate, represented the army. Rogovsky had been invited to address another issue at the meeting, although on Saturday night it appeared that the head of the personnel directorate, Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, might speak for the IDF on the Haredim.
Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman opposed the five-year cap on stipends to Haredim. "The prime minister is choosing a political compromise over a courageous decision that would bring good tidings to the Haredim and limit the inequality of the burden," he said.
Kadima called on Netanyahu to bring the issue to a vote in the Knesset.
"Netanyahu is once again lying to the public, fleeing responsibility and selling the country's values for the sake of personal survival," Kadima said.
The prime minister apparently prefers to make do with a cabinet decision out of concern that during the legislative process, lawmakers would try to insert objections into a bill or increase the funding to students in academic frameworks beyond what the recommendations call for.
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