The Knesset Education Committee will meet on Wednesday to try to salvage the funding for the 3,000 young women who volunteer in schools each year to perform their National Service.
National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev asked for the meeting after budget cuts by Education Minister Yuli Tamir threatened to cut the program short before the beginning of the 2008/09 school year on September 1.
"Tamir is trying to write her agenda as a member of Peace Now by attacking her biggest enemies, who are the religious Zionists," said Orlev.
Tamir said that the cut to the National Service budget was part of an overall reduction in the education budget.
But Orlev argued that the 40 percent removed from the National Service allocation was much greater than other cuts carried out in the past year within the ministry.
The underlying motive, he said, could be seen when paired with the large cuts to the budget for pre-military preparatory academies, most of which are also run - and used - by religious Zionists.
"I thank the Creator that we had the wisdom to pass legislation guaranteeing the budget for the state religious school system, otherwise she'd cut that too. She has no sense of restraint," he said of Tamir.
"Take, for instance, the current budget for 1,000 teacher-soldiers," Orlev said. "That budget wasn't reduced at all."
The teacher-soldiers and the National Service young women carry out similar assignments in state schools, mostly working with special-needs students and in depressed communities.
Orlev said he was proposing a bill to guarantee funding for National Service, removing it from politicized debates. He said he was enlisting support for the initiative from a wide range of parties, including from Tamir's Labor Party.
"This is a test for the prime minister," he said. "If he and the government have a drop of Zionism, of responsibility left, they need to prevent this budget cut."
Both Kadima and Labor have expressed support for National Service in the past, expressing hope it would become open and even mandatory to other sections of the population who, like religious girls, are exempt from military service.
It is especially in light of this last fact, said Orlev, that Tamir's decision was likely to be met with opposition not just from religious MKs but from a wide-range of legislators.
"This is not a matter of coalition or opposition," he said, "but rather of Zionism."
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