(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plans to provide free pre-school education
for three-year-old children beginning with this fall ran into problems Thursday
when the heads of parties in his coalition said they would vote against the plan
in Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
Speaking in Jerusalem Tuesday at an official
ceremony inaugurating centers for excellence in education across the country,
the prime minister said the initiative would be funded via four percent
across-the-board cuts to the budgets of government ministries.
chairman Eli Yishai came out against the cuts on Wednesday and said his party’s
four ministers would vote against them. Independence leader Ehud Barak announced
Thursday that his party’s five ministers would also oppose the cuts.
Yishai and Barak said the free education should instead be funded by increasing
the budget framework, a step both Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz
have fiercely ruled out.
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who
could tip the scale in favor or against the cuts, will speak publicly about them
for the first time at a party forum in Jerusalem on Friday. Israel Beiteinu
ministers Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Stas Meseznikov have both issued statements
opposing the cuts.
Currently, only children five-years-old and above
receive free education, and many families struggle to pay for daycare and
kindergarten for children under that age.
“Families spend thousands of
shekels on private kindergartens and we will act to correct this situation,”