As the Knesset Education Committee debates budget cuts to religious education, National Union party leader MK Yaakov Katz says, “Netanyahu received the votes of most of the religious-Zionist public, yet today he ignores us.”
Though the strike in the religious-Zionist educational network scheduled for Sunday has been called off, and though most of the funding cut from its budget has been restored, the crisis in these schools is far from over.
The Education Committee held a session on the topic Wednesday morning, at which voices were heard calling for the inclusion of the funding for the religious schools in the basic national annual budget. Religious-party MKs have long demanded this, and coalition whip MK Zev Elkin of the Likud has now echoed the call.
Wanted: Electoral Strength
MK Katz, known as Ketzaleh, had sharp words for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and says that lessons must be learned in the national-religious camp in time for the next elections.
The government’s original intention, up until last night, was to slash 86 million shekels ($22.7 million) from the religious education budget. Netanyahu was widely criticized for having abandoning the “charter” he signed with religious-Zionism prior to this year’s national elections. “His promises to us were written in ice” was the tone of the accusations.
Even now that the crisis has been mostly solved – the cut has been dropped from 86 million to 11 million shekels – MK Katz feels that Netanyahu is not to be trusted. “Our public apparently belongs to the reptiles species [‘crawlers,’ in Hebrew],” Katz said at the committee sessions. “Netanyahu received our votes, but now he doesn’t look at us. Before this government was established, when we held coalition negotiations with the Likud, I worked hard to have the yeshiva budgets anchored in the base of the budget, so that the religious public should not have to crawl and beg every year for what we deserve.”
“Netanyahu degrades and humiliates the religious public,” Katz continued. “He doesn’t consider us important, and it’s time we stop letting him do with us as he pleases. The correct response is that we must unite into one party, so that in the next elections we will receive 15 Knesset mandates.”
No Unity in Last Elections
Despite attempts to run as one unified religious-Zionist party in the elections nine months ago, the various groups were unable to come to an agreement, and they fielded two parties: The National Union, comprised of the old National Union party, Herut, and HaTikvah, and the Jewish Home, a renovated National Religious Party. The former received four Knesset seats, and the Jewish Home received three, just barely making it into the Knesset. Parties that do not receive at least three Knesset seats do not receive representation in the Knesset.
Netanyahu and Shas
“Netanyahu knew how to come to Arutz-7 and be interviewed right before the elections and call on the public to vote for him,” Katz laments, “but it seems that’s all we’re good for – to vote. Practically speaking, he lied to the public. Now he walks around with the Shas people, including the leftist Housing Minister – who admitted last night to Channel One television that Netanyahu has not approved one construction tender in eastern Jerusalem or in Judea and Samaria since he took office.”
“We must all unite, and thus stop the degradation of our public,” MK Katz said. “This is what’s important, and I will dedicate my life to achieving unity.”
Housing Minister Ariel Attias told Channel One that neither has the government approved any construction tenders in any of the settlement blocs.
The Prime Minister’s Bureau said, “The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that he is committed to continued normal life for the residents of Judea and Samaria, but that he will also be willing to reduce construction in these areas in order to get the peace process with the Palestinians going.”