Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Uriel Sinai/Pool
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended his plan to provide
free education for children ages three and four by enacting
across-the-board budget cuts to a number of government ministries.
at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that his
plan established that "education is important, and benefits to young
couples and families and security are essential, and we will change our
prime minister, who has faced resistance to the plan from ministers in
his coalition, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Interior
Minister Eli Yishai, said that "no decision is easy. Decisions like
this are always difficult and painful, but that is the meaning of
leadership. You cannot say that 'everything is important.'"
Netanyahu said, however, that "not only can we not cut the security budget, but we must increase it."RELATED:Netanyahu pledges free toddler education in fall
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prime minister stated that the strategic changes occurring in the
Middle East have consequences "for the national security of the State of Israel, for our ability to deal with the new challenges that we face, in new areas, over new weapons, and over the question of regional stability and instability. All of these have been taking place in recent months and we must draw the necessary conclusions."
The cabinet was set to discuss Netanyahu's budget proposals during the weekly meeting.
Prime Minister's Office, however, said that the issue of education funding was unlikely to
be brought to a
vote in Sunday's meeting. Government officials were quoted by Israeli
media as saying that the issue would probably not be decided upon in one
meeting, and would
likely require further discussion.
Netanyahu met with
Lieberman Saturday night in an attempt to persuade him to support his proposal. During the
meeting, Lieberman reportedly reiterated that he will vote against the
prime minister's proposal when it is brought to a ministerial vote.
Lieberman first expressed his position on Friday, speaking at at Israel
Beiteinu headquarters in Jerusalem. He said that while he supports free
education for all children from the age of six months, he believes that the policy
should only apply to families in which both parents work and served in
the army. He explained that people can in this way pay for the education
via taxes and their service to the country.
"A state's power is not
only measured by its advanced weaponry, but also by its soldiers'
motivation, so they know that the state will take care of them after
they serve," Lieberman told his party's municipal committee. "Our goal
should be to alleviate the burden on those who served in the army and
pay taxes, and carry all of [the country's] weight on their backs."
the same time, the foreign minister said, the state should not fund
"extremist groups" such as Islamic Movement supporters or
anti-government haredi groups such as Sikrikim and Neturei Karta.
Last week, Netanyahu announced that the defense budget would be cut
, along with those of all other ministries, in order to fund free education from age three.
Lieberman said on Friday that Netanyahu's plan is "insufficiently level-headed and examined, and was made haphazardly."
"The easiest thing to do is to cut all of the ministries, and take from
health, welfare and public security, but in that way, many citizens will
be harmed," he explained.
suggested that ministries' budgetary surpluses be used to fund early
childhood education, instead of transferring them to defense expenses.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report