Netanyahu and MK Shalom - Amit Shaabi -
Benjam Netanyahu and Silvan Shalom at a weekly cabinet meeting. Photo by Amit Shaabi
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning to “ignore the propaganda” being spread against the implementation of the law mandating free education from age three.

Netanyahu comments came after remarks by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday that his party, Yisrael Beitenu, would oppose the implementation of the law.

According to Lieberman, free education should only be available for families with two working parents, who have both served in the Israel Defense Forces.

Lieberman, who has been highly critical of Netanyahu’s handling of the free preschool education law, told a Yisrael Beitenu meeting on Friday that, “We certainly support a mandatory free education law at a young age, this is a necessary change that should have happened a long time ago."

He criticized Netanyahu, however, for not having thought out the implementation of the law sufficiently, and for approaching the issue "haphazardly.”

Netanyahu told the weekly meeting on Sunday, “The reality is that Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox already receive free education today.”

“I want this benefit to be available to the entire community,” he added.

At the beginning of the meeting, Netanyahu said, “The financial benefits for children who will be able to enjoy a longer school-day are only intended for working parents – this is an enormous socioeconomic blessing.”

Free preschool education for three and four year-olds was one of the most important recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee on socioeconomic reform.

Regarding the criticism that the defense budget had not been included in the budget cuts proposed to make funding available for this and other recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee, Netanyahu said, “We don’t need to cut the defense budget, we need to expand it.”

At last week’s weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu promised to end the ongoing delay in implementation of the law mandating free education from age three. Netanyahu told the cabinet that he would soon bring up the law for discussion so that it can be put into effect starting in the next school year.

Discussion of implementation of the legislation will start after the defense budget for 2012 is set, Netanyahu told the cabinet last week. He did not yet say where the money would come from to pay for the new scheme.