Lapid Accuses Shas' Deri of Lying, Making Cooperation Difficult

Finance Minister Yair Lapid says the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri, dishonestly spun reasoning for keeping alive certain education legislation.

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Finance Minister Yair Lapid has accused Shas leader Aryeh Deri of lying and making it "impossible for us to ever cooperate with him on issues concerning his constituency."

On Monday, Education Minister Shay Piron agreed with Deri to postpone for several months budget cuts that will hit school systems linked to Shas and United Torah Judaism, ultra-Orthodox parties currently in the opposition.

On Tuesday, Lapid wrote on his Facebook page that Deri was portraying the agreement as a victory for Shas and a surrender by Lapid and Piron to Haredi pressure. The real issue, Lapid wrote, was that there was a bureaucratic problem annulling the clause that grants full funding to Shas' Ma'ayan Hahinuch Hatorani school system.

Another problem may have been the press release by Lapid's Yesh Atid party Monday night. It failed to state that funding would be halted within six months, but rather would be reexamined "after the Education Ministry establishes a new national-Haredi education system during this school year."

On his Facebook page Lapid wrote that, at work at 1 A.M. Tuesday, he looked at his phone "and discovered that my new problem is that I'm too soft on the Haredim."

According to Lapid, "Shay explained that until we officially establish a national-Haredi school system, we're actually canceling their budget without offering an alternative. We held a short discussion and concluded that we would postpone by six months the annulment of the clause [that funds Ma'ayan Hahinuch Hatorani] until the new school system is established."

Lapid wrote that he told Piron to call Deri and tell him about the postponement.

"I forgot who I'm dealing with," Lapid wrote, saying that in the space of two hours "Deri took us for a tour around the world and sold the press the story that we surrendered to him and canceled the Ma'ayan cuts …. Not only is this a blatant lie, he has made it impossible for us to ever cooperate with him on issues concerning his constituency."

Lapid added that the big drama Monday was the debate on the defense budget. "A month and a half ago, when the budget talks began, [Defense Minister Moshe] Ya'alon and I decided it would be different this time. No slander, no leaks, no efforts to use rumors to influence the outcome."

According to Lapid, "It's easy on the outside to say 'we must cut the defense budget,' but it’s a heavy responsibility to actually do it. This was my hardest moment since I was elected to the Knesset."

Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Aryeh Deri (Shas) at the opening meeting of parliament's summer session, April 22, 2013. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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