Gafni says Finance Committee non-negotiable for UTJ

Haredi parties will likely seek to roll back some of the cuts made by last government's budget.

Moshe Gafni
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said on Sunday that his party’s demand for the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee was non-negotiable and that it would refuse to join the coalition otherwise.
The committee is a crucial juncture for the approval of the budget and any reserve funds allocated within the budget for possible emergency or discretionary use.
Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon is also seeking to gain control of the committee, and has emphasized the importance of having it chaired by a member of his party in order to implement the reforms he wishes to make as finance minister.
“We are not going to give up on the Knesset Finance Committee,” Gafni told Army Radio on Sunday morning.
Gafni previously served as chairman of the committee from 2009 to 2013 when both UTJ and Shas were part of a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I don’t understand Kahlon,” Gafni said. “I will advance his interests [but] he doesn’t have anyone on his list who has the experience to manage the committee. I’m not afraid of going to the opposition.”
The haredi parties are likely to try and roll back some of the cuts made by the last government to budgets which benefited the haredi community, including yeshiva stipends and child allowances. The last government cut stipends to yeshiva students from more than NIS 1 billion to under NIS 600 million. UTJ and Shas are likely to request that at the very least the previous level of funding be restored.
They will also seek to reverse cuts to child allowances which are an important source of income for haredi families with large numbers of children.
They may also possibly seek to restore state-paid income support allotments for haredi households who fall under a minimum total income, although these payments were banned by the High Court of Justice, so reinstating them may be more difficult.
Gafni also took the opportunity to defend Shas chairman Arye Deri against comments by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
On Saturday, Lapid called on Netanyahu not to appoint Deri to his requested post of interior minister, saying that it would be wrong to give a ministry with a large budget to someone who was previously convicted on bribery charges.
“The law allows Deri to run [for office] and to be a minister, he received seven [Knesset] seats,” countered Gafni, adding that Lapid should have changed the law when he was in the government if it was so important to him. “It’s preferable that he sit in silence right now.”