For two years, MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) worked “under the thumb” of ex-Finance Minister Yair Lapid and a mighty heavy thumb it was, Slomiansky told Arutz Sheva in an interview.
“The Finance Minister is the most powerful figure in the country's political system, and in the case of Lapid, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu preferred not to get involved. I, in the end, was the only one who stood in his way.”
Slomiansky said that, as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee - through which all government spending must pass for approval - he had the daily opportunity of facing off against Lapid, who had very definite ideas on what and what not to spend the taxpayer's money on.
Lapid might have started out okay, said Slomiansky, but very quickly fell under the spell of opinion polls, which showed him losing popularity.
“His advisors told him he needed an 'agenda,' and he decided the most convenient ones were attacking hareidim and residents of Judea and Samaria. He definitely did not start out as 'anti-settlement' - after all he established his party in Ariel - but he was apparently told that if he wanted to succeed, he needed to be more like his father,” the late Tommy Lapid, who, as chairman of Shinui, was outspoken against those two groups, Slomiansky added.
Slomiansky realized early on what was happening, and sought to halt Lapid from carrying out his election agenda on the backs of Israelis wherever and however he could. “
He slashed the budget for yeshivas, but I managed to restore NIS 620 million of that money. He tried to cancel stipends for yeshiva students from abroad, and we stopped that as well.”
Lapid was so petty, said Slomiansky, that “he wouldn't approve even a tax exemption for religious educational institutions or non-profit groups working in Judea and Samaria, despite the fact that everything was perfectly legal. I had to fight him day and night on this.”
Thanks in part to Slomiansky, those approvals are now made by a committee, and are no longer the province of the Finance Minister.
Although famous for his anti-hareidi rhetoric, Lapid was just as nasty to Judea and Samaria residents and projects. “Once he came across a budget item to fund a project in Har Homa in Jerusalem, and to families evicted from Gush Katif, and he froze transfer of the funds. I told him that this was money allocated for them - for the contractors who already built the homes in Har Homa, and for the evicted Jews of Gaza. He didn't answer and basically tried to steal the money that was by law supposed to go to these people. Even when the Knesset approved funds for these purposes, he tried to cut or freeze them.”
Lapid's prejudices even hurt residents of veteran Jewish communities. “There were several instances in which Lapid halted transfers of funds to places in northern and southern Israel, because one of the items in the transfer would have gone to build public institutions in Maale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev,” two suburbs of Jerusalem in lands liberated by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
“Fortunately I was able to restore it all, but these incidents are shameful to Lapid, in my opinion.”
In the end, it was Lapid's concern for the polls - and not for the welfare of the state - that brought him down.
“His big plan was the crazy 'Zero VAT' plan for first-time homebuyers, which every economist panned. It was nothing but a populist move that failed before it even began. What is needed is a Finance Minister who will look out for the good of Israelis, not his polling numbers.”