The Knesset overwhelmingly passed into law yesterday the Nahari bill, which requires local authorities to contribute to the cost of running private educational institutions, in most cases ultra-Orthodox schools. The Local Authorities Council estimates the annual cost of the bill for municipal authorities at NIS 250 million.

The approval of the bill is considered an important success for Shas, and is regarded as a the coalition's gesture to the ultra-Orthodox party. All presidential candidates, Shimon Peres, Colette Avital and Rubi Rivlin, voted in favor. Likud and National Religious Party MKs abstained.

The head of the Local Authorities Council, Adi Eldar, said the MKs had approved a bill but did not provide funding for it.

"Unfortunately, the MKs who voted in favor of imposing further financial burdens on local authorities did not say where the funding would come from - and they are simply removed from the day to day realities of Israel, living in their own bubble, pillaging the budgets of local authorities and their residents," said Eldar.

Eldar continued his vociferous assault, accusing the MKs of committing "a crime against local authorities. No one should be surprised later when there are local authorities who are not paying salaries [to employees]."

For her part, Education Minister Yuli Tamir said that "in every properly functioning country, public education enjoys preferential treatment. There is a debate here between the principle of equality and the principle of state control, between those who say the state is obligated to give all its citizens automatic equality in every area, and those who believe it is necessary to nurture public education. The Nahari bill, which will benefit schools whose supervision [is not carried out by the state] erodes the shared basis of the public school system. The result will be that private education will be bolstered at the expense of the public school system."