The National Service budget for next year has been restored with a last-minute agreement to transfer funds from the Prime Minister's Office to the Education Ministry.
More than 3,000 religious high school girls, who choose to serve the country in the National Service in Israel's school system rather than compromise their Jewish observance by enlisting in the army, would have been sidelined as a result. The schools in which they serve would also have been left without the extra help they provide.
A decision by Education Minister Yuli Tamir to slash the program by at least a third was averted at the last minute Thursday morning in a deal between MK Ami Ayalon, the minister responsible for national service, and the prime minister.
According to Ayalon's spokesman, Olmert ordered the transfer of NIS 18 million from his own office to cover the national service budget and allocation of an additional NIS 60 million for next year's budget.
The cuts were to have gone into effect at the end of this month, after Tamir decided last week to cut the National Service program by more than 30 percent. Some three thousand religious high school girls who were beginning to hunt for other positions for next year will be able to carry out their national service in Israel's schools after all.
Fiery Exchange between Tamir, Orlev
The last-minute deal also followed a fiery exchange between Tamir and National Union MK Zevulun Orlev at a Knesset committee meeting on Wednesday in which the Education Minister demanded that Orlev remove his political immunity so she could sue him for libel.
The Education Ministry, Orlev said, had cut most of the National Service positions in the school system.
Orlev agreed to remove his own political immunity and then charged Tamir, a member of the extreme left-wing Peace Now organization, with "not telling the truth" about the budget cuts in the National Service program.
The National Union lawmaker also demanded the Labor party dismiss Minister Tamir for what he called her "anti-national and anti-religious" policies.