MK Ofir Sofer (Religious Zionism) has proposed a solution to the political conflict surrounding the "From Uniform to University" legislation that is being backed by the coalition and opposed by the opposition, with the entire Likud party pledging to vote against the bill unless it is amended.
Even though the coalition does not appear to have an assured majority to pass the bill, it remains adamant that it will bring it to a Knesset vote and "embarrass" the opposition by portraying it as anti-soldier. The bill as it stands would provide stipends for discharged combat soldiers equal to around 70 percent of the cost of a degree course; the Likud party insists that it will only vote in favor of a bill that gives 100 percent funding.
"A combat soldier who wants to enter academic studies and is eligible according to the criteria can pay a third of the cost of his course, as the current legislation states," Sofer suggested on Sunday. "However, this money will be a deposit, and in the event that he successfully completes his degree course, the sum of money he laid out in advance will be refunded to him, and can be used for any purpose he may wish, such as purchasing a home, paying for a wedding, opening a business, and so forth.
"This proposal resolves the main objection raised by the coalition - namely, that paying for a third of one's studies ensures that the soldier concerned approaches his studies with the appropriate seriousness and intent to utilize this opportunity properly," Sofer explained.
"The cost of funding this addition to the existing legislation - of covering the remaining third of the cost of higher education, is around fifty million shekels," he added. "In discussions I have held with senior Treasury officials, I was told that such an amount does not pose an obstacle to passing the law."
Meanwhile, whether or not Sofer's suggestion is adopted, the coalition remains insistent on putting the bill before the Knesset plenum for a vote. Acting coalition head MK Boaz Toporovsky told Galei Tzahal on Sunday that, "Unlike the Netanyahu bloc, which is acting to damage the country regardless of the price, we are going to pass this law. If they vote against it, then that's their problem when it comes to explaining that decision to their voters. We're not counting on opposition support. They prefer to score a political victory, which simply isn't going to happen."