After a series of parliamentary victories for young families and working mothers, rumors circulated in the Knesset on Tuesday that the Finance Ministry might be behind a serious budgetary setback for those groups. MKs Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), who have spearheaded the continuing efforts to increase maternity leave to Western European standards, said Tuesday morning they had seen a ministry draft bill to balance the budget that included a reduction of paid maternity leave from 14 to 12 weeks. The two lawmakers, who last year managed to legislate an increase in maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks, and are currently trying to raise it to 16 weeks, said another clause in the Finance Ministry bill would cancel National Insurance Institute maternity grants for all births beyond the first. The ministry refused to respond to Sa'ar's and Yacimovich's claims, describing them as "irresponsible rumors." "Once again we see the regular ritual around balancing the budget, in which the Finance Ministry presents a thick bill including serious social cuts," said Meretz chairman Haim Oron. The threatened cuts were designed to be used as a negotiating tool between the ministry and the coalition, which did not want to be seen by voters as allowing drastic cuts that would affect tens of thousands of families each year, he said. MK Nadia Hilou (Labor), chairwoman of the Knesset Children's Committee, accused the Treasury of attempting to initiate legislation that would harm children and weaker sectors that could not easily fight back. She threatened to mobilize support to reject the 2009 state budget should the clauses be included in the final draft.