Bayit Yehudi: Put yeshiva budget in religious hands

Bayit Yehudi is "optimistic" the NIS 1.2 billion yeshiva budget will be transferred to Ministry of Religious Affairs, sources say.

Haredi ultra-orthodox yeshiva students 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Haredi ultra-orthodox yeshiva students 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Sources in the Bayit Yehudi party say they are optimistic that the NIS 1.2 billion budget for yeshivot, currently controlled by the Education Ministry, will be transferred to the Religious Affairs Ministry following the party¹s coalition negotiations demands.
The transfer of yeshiva funds to the Religious Affairs Ministry is part of an overall plan by Bayit Yehudi to bring different authorities and religious frameworks back under the auspices of the ministry, which the party is insisting on as one of the terms for joining the coalition.
A spokesman for the Yesh Atid party, which has set control of the Education Ministry as an extremely high priority in the negotiations, refused to comment on the matter.
The Religious Affairs Ministry was dismantled in 2003 as part of coalition agreements between Tommy Lapid¹s secularist Shinui party and Likud. It was re-established in 2008, but was stripped of several crucial departments, including the state conversion authority, the rabbinical courts system, and the chief rabbinate. Its budget is currently NIS 400 million.
A source in Bayit Yehudi told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the party sees the reunification of the different religious services provided by the state under one roof as a crucial part of its strategy to revitalize the provision of such services to the public, and to ³create a more inclusive provision of religious services for the Israeli public.² Hiddush, a religious-freedom lobbying group, has said that it deeply opposes the move, given the serious incidents of corruption at the ministry in the past, and the strong possibility that the haredi parties will in the future regain control of it.
It seems possible that Bayit Yehudi will be given three, not four ministries. In return for waiving a fourth ministry, the source said, the party will insist on the repatriation of the assorted religious authorities to the Religious Services Ministry which seems likely to go to the national religious party.
The Post understands that MK Eli Ben-Dahan, one of the leading Bayit Yehudi candidates for the position, has put a high priority on transferring the yeshiva budget to the Religious Services Ministry.
Regarding the concerns that the large yeshiva budget will once again return to the haredi parties in the future if it is removed from the Education Ministry, the source said the party was concentrating on the coming four years of the 19th Knesset and expressed optimism that the party¹s performance will help it strengthen its political gains and keep control of the ministry in the future.
There have been several notable corruption scandals involving the budget for yeshivot even after its re-establishment in 2008. Fictitious yeshiva students have been added to the registration of some yeshivot in order to gain extra funding, and fictional yeshivot have been placed on the list of institutions eligible for government funding. Said vice-president of Hiddush Shahar Ilan, ³Eli Ben-Dahan is an honest and qualified man but he won¹t be the minister for ever.² ³Bayit Yehudi is building a monster of a ministry which will end up again in the hands of Shas and once again the corruption scandals will come back. It¹s like building an entrance for the thief to enter, everyone will benefit by leaving the authority over the yeshivot in the Education Ministry,² he said.
The haredi parties would prefer the budget for the yeshivot to return to the Religious Services Ministry, partly so that the institutions will avoid the reforms being planned by Yesh Atid for the entire educational system.