MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) spoke out strongly in the Knesset on Wednesday against Yesh Atid chairman and Finance Minister Yair Lapid for blocking his bill, which would grant positive discrimination for haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) in the civil service.
The bill was approved in a vote by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, but Lapid issued an appeal against it on Monday to stymie government support for it.
Lapid wrote in his appeal that the government is already considering plans to implement such an initiative for haredi job seekers, but said that there was concern that the move could harm minorities for whom affirmative- action policies have already been put in place.
He cited Arabs, Druse, Circassians, Ethiopians and women as groups that could be adversely affected if new groups are given rights to positive discrimination.
“Therefore, increasing the group of those entitled to equal representation without a fitting reason, and before the work of the government panel has been completed, is not desirable,” wrote Lapid.
Gafni, however, took aim at Lapid and accused him of hypocrisy over his stance.
“The finance minister led his [election] campaign talking about forcing haredim to work, and has spoken about the need to integrate haredim into the workforce, yet Yesh Atid ministers voted against my bill,” Gafni said.
According to the MK, Bayit Yehudi chairman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett had told him that his bill would be brought for a preliminary reading in the Knesset and then integrated into planned government legislation.
On May 25, a decision was passed by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation that the Prime Minister’s Office, in conjunction with the Economy Ministry, would produce a draft bill on the issue within 60 days.
A committee to draw up the legislation has been established, and includes the director of the Prime Minister’s Office, the director of the Economy Ministry, and representatives from other relevant government ministries and authorities.
Gafni questioned why Lapid had appealed his legislation instead of allowing Bennett, as economy minister, to deal with technical problems with the bill.
“This law should be approved, it won’t solve all the problems we have but it will point the way,” he said.
Despite his criticism of the finance minister, Gafni said he would be speaking with Lapid in the coming days on the issue.
However, Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman said he was skeptical about the efficacy of Gafni’s bill and insisted that the government be allowed to deal with idea in a proper manner.
“After working on this issue from the day I entered the Knesset, it is clear that this law will not help haredim enter government offices,” said Lipman.
“The committee which has been established will provide realistic solutions. Since this is our goal, we stopped this law, which can only cause damage, and will focus on actually helping haredim,” he added.
In the first quarter of 2014, 44.5 percent of haredi men worked, according to statistics from the Economy Ministry, compared to the national average of 81%.
Just 1% of male employees in public administration, such as government ministries and local government authorities, is haredi, while the haredi community makes up roughly 8% to 10% of the population.