Finance Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky told Kipa that Finance Minister Yair Lapid's decision to retroactively cancel funding to all yeshivas last Wednesday, a move that has fanned tensions and led to massive hareidi protests, is "a scandal like no other."
Lapid's decision followed a Supreme Court ruling last week, that ordered the government not to fund yeshivas whose students' enlistment was deferred. The postponement was instituted by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon until new laws on hareidi enlistment are passed in the coming weeks.
Slomiansky noted that in this case, Supreme Court judges "had their fingers on the trigger" to rush through a ruling, while often they stall on making other rulings. "They saw the Knesset is discussing the Equal Burden Law and in a moment it will all be over, so they stopped everything at the last minute.'
"Why did they have to get involved and stop the budget?" asks Slomiansky. "Why not wait another 3 months? It's impossible to understand this absurd process."
Based on the ruling, Lapid leaped on a loophole to cut funding that was already allotted to yeshivas for February, cutting money to all yeshivas so as to weed through the yeshivas whose students didn't enlist later on. Slomiansky notes this free-handed finance cutting "completely opposes" the ruling.
Slomiansky assessed Lapid's move in a similar vein to hareidi MK Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism), who accused Lapid of fanning tensions with the hareidim for political gain. According to Slomiansky, "the time has come for the finance minister to get free of the idea that every time he goes down in the polls he has to oppose Judea and Samaria and the yeshivas to go back up."
Indeed, polls in January showed Lapid's Yesh Atid party dropping hard from its current 19 seats by anywhere from 9 to 14 mandates less than its current figure. Lapid last Saturday cut funding to Judea and Samaria over a far-left journalist's claims the money was being transferred to the region's Yesha Council.
'We won't hesitate to stop budgets until funds are released'
Lapid and his party's goal is to cut the budget of the yeshivas and Judea and Samaria, a goal that Lapid's 19 seats prevent from being easily overturned, argues Slomiansky. However, the Jewish Home MK noted he was not without options.
Several months ago Slomiansky was able to fight off Lapid's efforts to cut funds for foreign hareidi students by suspending funding for the Taglit-Birthright Israel project.
"We won't hesitate to again stop the budgets until the yeshivas' funds are released," warned Slomiansky. "We may be forced to freeze funds again. That will start a war. We did it and were successful, and if needed we'll do it again."
Lapid has threatened to leave the coalition if criminal sanctions against hareidi draft-dodgers are not included in the new laws. According to Slomiansky, a coalition change may be just the solution for the current predicament.
While Slomiansky noted his disbelief that Lapid would actually follow through on his threats to leave the coalition, he added if it were to happen "there's a good chance the hareidim will enter the coalition and not the Labor party. It's too bad the prime minister doesn't get involved to let us go head to head with Yesh Atid."
Slomiansky ended by expressing his support for the hareidim in the battle with Lapid, despite his disagreement with the hareidim - "those who don't study Torah need to go to national service, the army, and in the end to work, but we need to take care that the Torah world isn't damaged."