The Liba Center, an organization that is well-known in the religious Zionist community, on Sunday published its annual review of the state of religious legislation in the Knesset – and the 19th Knesset will go down as one of the most anti-religious in Israel's history, according to the report. Liba, which is not to be confused with a similarly named group head by Yehuda Glick, said that despite a 400% rise in the number of religious Zionist members – from 3 to 12 – in the current Knesset, there was a sharp rise in anti-religious legislation.
The 19th Knesset, which just concluded, was responsible for no fewer than 23 of what Liba considered to be legislation against the interests of the religious community in Israel. Among those measures: a sharp reduction in the budgets of yeshivas, which in the past were budgeted at about a billion shekels, and fell over the past two years to NIS 650 million. In addition, the Knesset ended stipend payments for full-time yeshiva students, with the last payments made last week.
Jewish Home, considered by most of its voters as the party that looks out for the interests of religious Zionists, said that the Liba report was misleading, because it included laws that passed the Knesset only in their first readings, and did not make it out of committee for their second and third readings, at which point they would become the law of the land. A Jewish Home spokesperson said that if anything, the report shows the effectiveness of the party, which managed to prevent the passage of most of the bills into law.
Among the laws halted on their first reading was a measure to allow importation of non-kosher frozen meat, a law that would require rabbinical authorities to issue a kashrut certificate to businesses that open on Shabbat, a law to authorize widespread public transportation on Shabbat, the law to allow surrogate births, and attempts to extend the service of Hesder yeshiva students.
In its report, Liba slammed Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett for not doing more to defend the interests of religious Israelis, saying that “in the past, the party representing religious values fought much harder for its ideals, and was prepared to pay a high political price.” In response, Jewish Home said that “it would be best for Liba to repent for its slander, and, for a change, to apologize for its nonsense.”