Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman responded Thursday to criticism of his decision to change the eligibility criteria for daycare subsidies.
Liberman said that the new criteria, according to which government funding will only be available to families in which the mother's partner works at least 24 hours (half time) each week, is necessary for yeshiva students who learn full-time and do not work, and called on his haredi critics to read the halakhic sources.
"Children should be given 'what they need' - education and the ability to integrate into the employment market, earn a decent living and not be based on allowances and alms," Liberman said.
He added: "And to my friends from the ultra-Orthodox sector, I call on you to return to the sources and the words of Maimonides (who worked full time), who said: "Anyone who comes to the conclusion that he should involve himself in Torah study without doing work and derive his livelihood from charity, desecrates [God's] name, dishonors the Torah, extinguishes the light of faith, brings evil upon himself, and forfeits the life of the world to come, for it is forbidden to derive benefit from the words of Torah in this world."
Earlier, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz of the Meretz party criticized the cuts in benefits, saying: "I am in favor of giving children what they need - irrespective from what their parents do."
"A child is an entity in itself, and if it is in his best interest to be in a daycare center - I am not in favor of depriving him of that," he added in an interview with Galai Tzahal (IDF Radio).
The Shas party has announced that it will petition the Supreme Court against Liberman's decision, arguing that it discriminates against haredim.