A sharp debate broke out Wednesday between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Water and Energy Minister Silvan Shalom over the role of vocational schools in Israel. The two exchanged insults, and tones reached very high levels, those at the meeting where the incident broke out said.
Shalom was promoting the idea of putting more money into academic programs to encourage more students to take matriculation exams and qualify for college, while others, including Netanyahu, said that vocational schools still held an important place in the country. Netanyahu and a number of ministers are attempting to siphon off a portion of the education budget for the establishment of vocational high schools and junior high schools.
“You want to open schools for welders and car repair people,” Shalom told Netanyahu and other ministers. “By doing this you will preserve the income and social gaps. This is a scandal and I will not allow it to happen. I will take every opportunity to oppose you. Not one of you would send his grandchild to such a school. I'd like to see you send your son to welding school,” he told the Prime Minister.
In response, Netanyahu said that there was nothing wrong with welding, car repair, plumbing, or other traditional blue-collar professions. “You are living in yesterday's world,” he told Shalom. “Welders and repair people make a lot of money.”
Shalom was not having any of it. “It is you who wants to send us back fifty years,” he told Netanyahu. “Instead of helping people to upgrade their skills you want them to earn basic wages. This is what you do to Israeli kids? If they decide that welding is a good career they can go study it after the army, but we have to give them the opportunity to succeed academically as well,” he added.