Cheating Secular Israelis in 8 Billion Ways

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Settlers protesting the evacuation of a West Bank outpost.Credit: AP

The narrow majority, lack of enthusiasm, strange appointments and enormous sums paid to the coalition parties while ditching the principles of equality, work and military service have made the new government an especially bad one. It’s so bad it’s hard to decide which injustice to start with.

Let’s start with the evacuees from the Gaza Strip. After seven years of massive extortion of the treasury, which greatly compensated the evacuees, the cabinet finally decided in 2012 to close down the evacuation administration and end the shakedown.

But then in 2013 a new government arose, and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, that great Zionist, demanded that the evacuation administration be reestablished — and it was, in the Housing Ministry under Uri Ariel. It received a huge budget of 215 million shekels ($56 million) so we could pay the evacuees more and feed their endless appetite. It seemed the affair had ended, but it hadn’t.

In his party’s coalition agreement, Bennett demands budgeting for “preserving the heritage of Gush Katif” — the Gaza settlements — even though this heritage is already preserved in two museums. We’re extending the aid for the local authorities that absorbed the evacuees. This is another 24 million shekels, on top of the sums already available to the evacuation administration — and that’s just one small example of Bennett’s cynical sectionalism.

Here’s another example. Everyone knows that the state religious schools receive the highest budget from the Education Ministry. But Bennett actually demanded that this most pampered group receive another 200 million shekels for “strengthening and stabilizing its position.” Is there any limit to this cynicism?

Similarly, Ariel University will receive 75 million shekels, and the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division will receive 50 million shekels, which will grow over the year to 500 million shekels and mostly go mostly to the settlements.

And there will also be a special budget for armoring buses in the West Bank and for security grants to local authorities there. All told, that’s 1.3 billion shekels to wearers of knitted kippot — from the distinguished Zionist who talks in fancy language about the Negev and Galilee but sends the money to his voters.

As for the ultra-Orthodox, we’re talking about 5 billion shekels boosting Haredi educational institutions, paying for summer camps and yeshivas, raising the salaries of preschool teachers, subsidizing day care, making the position “synagogue rabbi” a paid job, restoring income allowances even though Haredim aren’t looking for work, raising child allowances and providing free dental care for children 12 to 18.

There’s also the renewal of funding from both the treasury and the municipalities to schools that don’t teach the core curriculum at all. That’s how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is supporting another generation of young Haredim who won’t learn English, math or science. So they won’t be able to find jobs, which will force the secular donkey to carry on its back more and more Haredim who don’t work. In other words, to pay more taxes and other charges.

Let’s then add the “designated funds” that coalition Knesset members receive — 20 million shekels per MK. Knesset members can allocate this money as they see fit. It’s a clear invitation to corruption, as we’ve seen with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Oh yes, and then let’s add the demands of Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party.

We then reach an incredible 8 billion shekels, which completely mortgages the state budget and lets the government do little for Israelis as a whole. But that’s not important. What’s important is that the Gaza evacuees get theirs, the Haredim don’t work and the settlements prosper. And then Bennett and the Haredim will keep on making fools of us.

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