United Torah Judaism will support the 2016 budget only if all the promises in the coalition agreements it signed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are kept, the party’s Council of Torah Sages decided Monday night.
- In Vote Delayed Into the Small Hours, Knesset Decides to Allow for Two-year Budget
- The Child Benefits That Worsen Israel’s Poverty Problem
- For Israel's ultra-Orthodox, Happy Days Are Here Again
But since a Knesset vote on the budget isn’t expected to take place for months, the decision effectively allows the party to remain a full member of the coalition until then – despite its recent tensions with Netanyahu.
The main source of these tensions was the prime minister’s decision not to retroactively increase the size of child allowances.
Netanyahu recently informed all the coalition parties that due to budgetary constraints, they would have to give up some of the funding the coalition agreements promised them for various "pet" causes – or at least agree to spread the payments over two years.
For the two ultra-Orthodox parties, UTJ and Shas, the main item affected was the child allowances. Though Netanyahu promised both that the cuts in the allowances instituted by the previous government would be reversed, that can happen only after the budget is approved, probably toward the end of the year. Consequently, the coalition agreements included a retroactivity clause: Whatever amount parents “lose” over the months between when the government took office in May and when the budget is finally passed is supposed to be “refunded” to them via a one-time payment.
Now Netanyahu has decided to cancel this one-time payment, meaning the higher child allowances will not be retroactive to May.
Last week, the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties tried to persuade Netanyahu to rescind this decision, but to no avail. UTJ’s Council of Torah Sages therefore took the unusual step of meeting to consider the issue.