While haredi politicians accuse the government of implementing policies that discriminate against yeshiva students, the government on Sunday continued with its campaign of providing extra benefits for those who serve in the IDF. In the latest move, MK Eliezer Stern (Hatnu'a) proposed that demobilized IDF soldiers who are not working be exempted from having to pay National Insurance fees for three months.
According to the Basic Law on National Insurance, every Israeli receives health insurance, burial insurance, unemployment benefits, pensions where warranted, and many other benefits, administered by the National Insurance Institute. Those 18 and under are covered by payments made by their parents, while soldiers have their NII payments taken care of by the army.
As soon as a soldier leaves service, the law requires him to start paying for NII insurance – a very difficult task for many just finishing their service, Stern said, because they were unlikely to begin working so soon after their service ended. With his new law, Stern said, ex-soldiers would get some “breathing room” to they could get on their feet, beginning a new job without worrying about paying back NII debts.
Stern presented his bill to the Ministerial Law Committee Sunday, which approved it for Knesset legislation.
Earlier Sunday, the High Court, following up on a Knesset decision, said that yeshiva students would no longer receive stipends from the state beginning next January. In a decision Sunday, the High Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein ruled that supplying yeshiva students with stipends negated plans by the state to encourage students to find jobs. The stipends, the court said, instead preserved the status quo, and as such the government was working at cross-purposes. In addition, the court ruled, giving stipends to yeshiva students was discriminatory, because other students did not receive them.
In a decision from several years ago, the High Court required that the state provide stipends not only to yeshiva students, but to full-time university students who were married, had children, and had no other source of income, as well. The stipends amount to about NIS 1,000 per month, but according to Rubinstein, the fact that the money was available for college students did not make stipend distribution non-discriminatory. According to Rubinstein, only a few hundred college students were eligible for the funds, while some 10,000 yeshiva students were receiving them.
Students will continue to receive the money until the end of the year. Legislation passed last year had ended the stipend program, which was set to expire in December anyway. The court decision Sunday will prevent the Knesset from renewing the program.
Haredi MKs slammed the decision, with MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Jewry) mincing no words in condemning it.
“This is a declaration of war on the rights of Torah students in Israel. The court has turned itself into the 'sherriff' that executes the state's policy of hate and discrimination against hareidi Jews,” MK Meir Porush (UTJ) said, adding that the court “continues in a long string of discriminatory decisions against the hareidi community and its way of life. It is shameful.”
During a cabinet meeting Sunday morning, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the government intended to encourage hareidi Jews to work.
“We will propose laws to integrate them into the workforce, as we have been doing. We have already taken many steps in this direction, and there will be many more steps in the future,” he said.