Stipends for Yeshiva Students Included in Newly Passed Budget

NIS 111 million for yeshiva students included in budget for next two years, despite Netanyahu's appointment of a committee to examine controversial yeshiva student bill.

Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's appointment of a committee on Sunday to examine a controversial bill calling for resumption in allowances to full-time yeshiva students, the bill's cost has already been included in the state budget for the next two years.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz included a sum of NIS 111 million intended for yeshiva students' stipends in the state budget which was approved by  the Knesset on Monday.

Yeshiva students- Alon Ron
Alon Ron

The move drew harsh criticism from the opposition party Kadima, who said Netanyahu has "broken a new record for cynicism, chutzpah and disrespect toward the Israeli public."

"On Sunday he announces he's establishing a committee, and on Monday he is pushing the yeshiva student stipends into the state budget. This is a shameful standard of deception and a despicable low in governmental norms."

Labor MK Eitan Cabel also slammed Netanyahu, saying that "the Israeli government is stealing from Israeli citizens and is lying to them shamelessly." Cabel called on his party members to oppose the state budget.

The Prime Minster's office issued a statement responding to the reports saying, "the government is acting in line with the High Court's ruling to solve by law the stipends for the yeshiva students. Meanwhile," the statement added, "the government is working to encourage professional incorporation of yeshiva students into the work force. By the end of the year, before the budget is approved in second and third readings, the government will determine a legal agreement for the distribution of financial support, in line with the High Court's ruling."

"In case the procedure does not end by the time the budget is raised for approval, the budget designated to yeshiva students will be transferred to the state budget's general reserve," the statement added.

The yeshiva student stipends bill was introduced this week by the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), but drew fierce criticism from ministers and members of the opposition alike, after which Netanyahu suspended the Knesset vote by several weeks.

A prime ministerial committee examining the bill is expected to recommend that students who want to join the workforce be allowed stipends during a transition period in which they study Torah and work.

The committee, which was appointed by Netanyahu on Sunday, is also expected to recommend that the NIS 1,100 monthly allotments be gradually reduced as the yeshiva students join the workforce and stop altogether if they work full-time.

Netanyahu also asked the panel to expand a controversial bill that would require the state to pay married yeshiva students a monthly allowance totaling at least NIS 150 million a year, despite a recent High Court of Justice ruling banning allocations that discriminate between yeshiva students and college students.