(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
It’s hard to believe that the prime minister of Israel would agree to undo so many positive steps that this government has taken. I will review some specific issues which the 19th Knesset has addressed.
This government was formed in March 2013. Since that time, we passed a law that requires reasonable numbers of haredim (ultra-Orthodox), who are not truly studying Torah day and night as their passion, to serve in the army. The target goals for the first year have already been met. Budgets were cut from educational institutions that don’t teach general studies and, as a result, tens of haredi schools have begun to incorporate basic general studies. Funds were shifted from kollels to training programs to enable haredim to enter the workforce. A government decision passed to enable local rabbis to organize conversion courts and provide potential access to conversion to hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russians who moved to Israel under the Law of Return, and to their children. And, in order to climb out of the hole of an NIS 40 billion deficit we made difficult cuts to child benefits.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has reached out to the haredi parties and will call for new elections if they guarantee him that they will support him for prime minister and join his coalition after the elections.
They have reportedly responded that they will do so if he: 1) redesigns the draft law to their liking 2) restores all yeshiva and kollel budgets 3) abolishes the new conversion policy 4) restores all child budgets.
It would be damaging to go to elections within two years of the formation of the government for no reason at all. It would be even worse to go to elections based on a written deal between the prime minister and the haredi parties to undo all of the progress that has been made these past two years. This is “old politics,” with the prime minister acting simply to remain in office longer and not with the best interests of the country in mind.
We in Yesh Atid are not afraid of elections. We are confident that we can show voters that we fulfilled our campaign promises by passing a new draft law, enacting electoral reform, beginning the process of a massive overhaul in education and assisting small businesses, including the newest change – VAT tax only having to be paid on money in hand.
We are proud of the one billion shekels which we gave to Holocaust survivors to help them pay their bills and pay for medication. We are proud of the 2015 budget, which includes an NIS 4b. increase to restructure the health system and free up more beds and appointment times; an NIS 3b. increase in education to include more afternoon and summertime programming; an NIS 2b. increase to welfare, including implementing recommendations of the Alaloof committee to combat poverty; a billion shekels to internal security, including increasing the number of police officers; and an NIS 6b. increase to the Defense Ministry.
We are also proud of our efforts and plans to bring down the cost of housing, and of the fact that our policies will bring down the costs of water and electricity bills by over 10 percent each beginning in January. And, of course, we are proud of all the changes made with regard to the haredi community – the very changes which may be undone through this developing deal between the prime minister and the haredi parties.
The prime minister will make his decision in the coming days. This decision is not simply about new elections or not. There has been a lot of noise of late about Israel as a Jewish state. This decision goes to the core of the question of what kind of Jewish state we will have. Will it be a state representing a moderate, embracing and rational Judaism or an extreme, distancing and stringent Jewish state? Let’s hope and pray that prime minister Netanyahu makes the decision which is best for the overwhelming majority of Jews in Israel and around the world, and not that which serves the interests of a small but politically powerful group. Let’s also hope that Likud, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu MKs and voters make it clear that they will not accept a government based on this deal with the haredi parties. Otherwise, nearly two years of progress on crucial issues will be undone.The writer is a Member of Knesset in the Yesh Atid party.