Cabinet to discuss budget cuts to fund education

PMO officials say proposal will probably not yet be brought to vote; Lieberman, Yishai, Barak oppose Netanyahu's plan.

PM Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
PM Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The cabinet was set to discuss Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's proposal for budget cuts to government ministries Sunday morning, designed to fund free early childhood education from age three.
The Prime Minister's Office, however, said that the issue was unlikely to be brought to a vote in Sunday's meeting. Government officials were quoted by Israeli media as saying that the issue would probably not be decided upon in one meeting, and would likely require further discussion.
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Netanyahu met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Saturday night in an attempt to persuade him to support his proposal. During the meeting, Lieberman reportedly reiterated that he will vote against the prime minister's proposal when it is brought to a ministerial vote.
Lieberman first expressed his position on Friday, speaking at at Israel Beiteinu headquarters in Jerusalem. He said that while he supports free education for all children from the age of six months, he believes that the policy should only apply to families in which both parents work and served in the army. He explained that people can in this way pay for the education via taxes and their service to the country.
"A state's power is not only measured by its advanced weaponry, but also by its soldiers' motivation, so they know that the state will take care of them after they serve," Lieberman told his party's municipal committee. "Our goal should be to alleviate the burden on those who served in the army and pay taxes, and carry all of [the country's] weight on their backs."
At the same time, the foreign minister said, the state should not fund "extremist groups" such as Islamic Movement supporters or anti-government haredi groups such as Sikrikim and Neturei Karta.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Interior Minister Eli Yishai also oppose the plan.
Last week, Netanyahu announced that the defense budget would be cut, along with those of all other ministries, in order to fund free education from age three.
Lieberman said on Friday that Netanyahu's plan is "insufficiently level-headed and examined, and was made haphazardly."
"The easiest thing to do is to cut all of the ministries, and take from health, welfare and public security, but in that way, many citizens will be harmed," he explained.
Lieberman suggested that ministries' budgetary surpluses be used to fund early childhood education, instead of transferring them to defense expenses.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report