MK Avigdor Liberman
MK Avigdor LibermanKobi Richter/TPS

Israel is about to complete the year without a budget in place, leading to complications and shortfalls in many government departments. This week, various arrangements were made between several ministries and the Treasury, ensuring that a certain minimum level of funding would be transferred despite the lack of a state budget; among the agreements reached was one between Finance Minister Yisrael Katz and the head of the Knesset’s Finance Committee, MK Moshe Gafni, of the United Torah Judaism party, for the continued funding of yeshiva students in haredi institutions.

Continuing his long-standing policy of using incitement against the haredi community in order to drum up electoral support prior to national elections, MK Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, focused solely on the transfer of funds to haredi institutions, calling haredi MKs “thieves in the night.”

Accusing the stipends of “coming at the expense of taxpayers,” Liberman alleged that, “at a time when the country is in the midst of an unnecessary lockdown, when there are hundreds of thousands of people unemployed, businesses are collapsing, and the younger generation is being sacrificed, representatives of the Yamina party are extending a hand to Bibi [PM Netanyahu] and the haredi parties and making sure that yeshivas get an increase of tens of millions of shekels to their budgets.”

Also accusing haredi institutions of getting special treatment was the Calcalist newspaper in Tuesday’s edition, in an article headlined, “Stipends to married men learning Torah won’t be cut, but budgets to education and welfare will be.” The author of the article also claimed that the cost of the “stipends for Torah students” would amount to around NIS 300 million in the next few months alone.

Coming to the defense of the haredi community was MK Betzalel Smotrich of the Yamina party, who clarified the issue and exposed Liberman’s and the Calcalist’s falsifications.

“I make absolutely no apology for the fact that I made sure that budgets for yeshivas and married men learning Torah would be safeguarded,” he said, as quoted by Behadrey Haredim. “We’re talking about NIS 600 per month for married students [and NIS 350 per month for unmarried yeshiva students],” he noted – “barely enough to buy bread and milk for their children. But just to answer to the lies being propounded – we did the exact same thing for all budgets related to social institutions,” he added.