Coalition Deal Gives Yeshivas NIS 1 Billion, Even if They Lie About Use of Funding

Agreement also brings back discriminatory housing preferences granted to married ultra-Orthodox couples.

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United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman.
United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman.Credit: Eyal Toueg

Likud has committed to allocating about 1 billion shekels ($258 million) to yeshivas under a coalition deal with the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, in which the ruling party says it won’t cut off funding even if the religious seminaries are caught lying about how they use a portion of the money.

Likud has pledged to suspend the current practice of halting the flow of money if yeshivas are caught submitting fictitious reports about their use of 120 million shekels of the government funds. At most, the government might cut any contested amount from future payouts with the approval of the Education Ministry’s director general.

In addition, Likud has agreed to grant housing preferences to certain ultra-Orthodox couples by bringing back discriminatory criteria that had previously been reversed.

In a report released Tuesday, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira found that the monitoring system meant to prevent fictitious reports by yeshivas is on the verge of collapse.

He said there has been no oversight of yeshivas with more than 200 students since 2011, even though most of the serious cases of corruption that police have discovered have been at large institutions.

The coalition agreement with UTJ says an effort will be made to establish a new oversight procedure that will give yeshivas the right to a hearing if they are suspected of lying about how they use the funds, in addition to stipulating that the government won’t cut off funding.

The deal also states that married ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students who qualify for the government’s affordable housing program, Mehir Lemishtaken, will be given preference over other qualified candidates.

The agreement brings back earlier regulations that favor Haredim by giving substantial weight to how long applicants have been married and little weight to a couple’s earning power. Ultra-Orthodox men tend to marry young and stay out of the workforce.

The marriage criterion was eliminated under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous government, which did not include any Haredi parties.

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