Today, when it’s clear that the president will hand the task of forming the next government to Benjamin Netanyahu, we should expect the prime minister to demonstrate responsibility and not carry out a liquidation sale of the country’s assets. Such a danger exists, in light of the anticipated demands of the parties that will compose the coalition.
The ultra-Orthodox will try to cancel the “decrees” imposed on them during the term of the present government, a move that requires an additional budget of billions of shekels. They will attempt to restore the child allowances that were cut, increase the budgets of the yeshivas and the kollels (yeshivas for married men), restore the guaranteed income allowance for yeshiva students, and revive the “Nahari law,” which required local authorities to fund Haredi educational institutions even if they don’t teach the core curriculum.
United Torah Judaism and Shas will demand the reallocation of budgets to pay for Haredi boarding schools, increase the education budgets of Agudat Israel and Shas, which are suffering from a budgetary crisis, and overturn the decision to the effect that institutions which do not teach the core curriculum receive only partial funding from the government. They will want to increase the budgets designated for building synagogues and mikvehs (ritual baths) and to expand the budgets of the religious councils.
The demands of the Haredi parties will not end with high budgetary expenditures. They will also try to thwart efforts to integrate Haredim into the job market. If schoolchildren don’t learn English, mathematics and sciences, they won’t be able to enter the working world and will be forced to remain in the kollels, financially dependent on their leaders.
The other parties have demands as well. Habayit Hayehudi will demand an increase in budgets for the settlements, Yisrael Beitenu will demand a cancellation of the reform plan in the Jewish National Fund, which would prevent revenues totaling about 1 billion shekels from reaching the state coffers, and Kulanu will want budgets for dealing with poverty and providing attainable housing.
Confronting all these demands requires a strong finance minister and prime minister. They will have to work together to present a budget with a low deficit, while carrying out important reforms in housing, the cost of living, the dismantling of the monopolies and the improvement and streamlining of the civil service.
In light of the extravagant election promises it is important to remember the truth: Only a responsible budget, accompanied by the implementation of important reforms, will lead to swift growth, high employment and a narrowing of social gaps.
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