Was Bennett really surprised to learn of cuts to haredim?

Or was Liberman's decision part of a scheme to persuade haredi parties to join the coalition?

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
Shalev Shalom/TPS

Many have been the voices decrying Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman's (Yisrael Beytenu) decision to cut daycare subsidies to families where the father is in full-time Torah study. Those expressing their criticism have come from across the political spectrum, from Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi and Meretz MK Mossi Raz, to MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party, and of course the haredi MKs.

In fact, one of the only voices that hasn't been heard is that of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who just a few weeks ago promised, in the course of an interview on Channel 12 News, that “haredim would not be harmed” by the new government he was forming, and that Liberman had conceded the issue to him, as had MKs Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope) and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid).

On Wednesday evening, Channel 12 reporter Amit Segal reported that PM Bennett had not been informed of Liberman’s decision to disqualify around 18,000 haredi families from the daycare subsidy prior to its publication, and that Bennett was surprised to learn of the decision. According to Segal, since this was not a governmental decision, there was apparently no need to inform Bennett in advance. He added that several members of the Prime Minister’s inner circle have now assured their critics that no additional steps will be taken against haredim.

However, Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker disputes this account of events, insisting that Bennett was indeed aware of Liberman’s intentions before he acted, and that he chose not to intervene. Drucker explains this as being part of a scheme to exact a high price from the haredi sector for refusing to join the coalition, in the hope that the two haredi parties, UTJ and Shas, will relent and join Bennett’s government.

Channel 12’s Segal is in agreement with Drucker on this point – he also believes that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) continues to hope that the haredi parties will join the government, which would free it of its dependence on the United Arab List (Ra'am). According to Segal, the chances of this happening are close to nil.

“They should forget about this impossible dream,” is his advice to Bennett and Shaked, and he notes that the two Yamina MKs had similar hopes regarding rogue Yamina MK Amichai Chikli and the right-wing opposition parties, deluding themselves up to the last minute that they would not vote against the government on the extension of the Citizenship Law.

“The haredim are furious with Liberman,” Segal points out, “but they are even more furious at Bennett and Shaked. Those two simply don’t grasp the depth of the fury against them in the haredi community.”