Gov't passes PM's yeshiva stipend reform proposal

MK Hasson: Public is tired of PM's culture of lying; Kadima says decision spits in the face of young generation that serves [in IDF], contributes.

Yeshiva 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yeshiva 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The government on Sunday approved a limit in the number of years yeshiva students can receive stipends to five years and reduced the number of who are entitled to unlimited studies, so-called "perpetual students." Fourteen ministers supported the bill, eight opposed it and three abstained from voting.
The PMO noted that the decision changes the current situation where every yeshiva student was eligible to receive a stipend for many years. The government also budgeted NIS 50 million for under-privileged university students, as part of an aid fund.
RELATED:Kadima slams PM's plan to limit haredi stipend bill Violence mars student demo against kollel stipend bill
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the move "the first step that any government has taken on the issue." He claimed that limiting the stipends would "encourage this population to integrate into the labor market and leave the cycle of poverty."
MK Yoel Hasson responded, "This is another Netanyahu exercise that shows contempt for a High Court decision and brings humiliation to the court." He added, "Netanyahu is lying to students and to IDF soldiers, and bought the support of the haredim with stipends, paid for by the entire public... There is no equality between students and there is only an increase in the stipends to the haredim." Hasson fired at the prime minister, "The public is tired of Netanyahu and his government's culture of lying."
Kadima responded that Netanyahu "sold the Israeli public, is training the draft-dodgers and has turned the IDF from a peoples' army to the 'IDF Inc.'" In order to win over the religious parties' support, the statement continued, "Netanyahu has chosen the culture of lies at the expense of equality, compelling the public to pay" for the cost of the government's "survivability." The Kadima statement said, "The decision evades responsibility, sells out the values of the state and spits in the face of the young generation that serves and contributes."
High Court demands haredi, student equality
The High Court of Justice ruled in June that the government cannot continue paying stipends solely to haredim who study full time, while other populaces such as university students are not eligible.
An interministerial committee headed by Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eyal Gabai was formed to find a way to accommodate the court’s ruling, and on Friday the PM’s Office jubilantly announced that after some 30 years, “the allowances to kollel students will be significantly limited. At the same time, scholarship funds for needy university students will be doubled,” by the addition of NIS 50 million.
Kollel students will be eligible for the support for only five years, and the number of those who can receive the allowance for an unlimited period – “constant learners” – will be restricted to an estimated 2,000, according to the proposal approved by the ministers on Sunday.
Backing for kollel students will be limited to NIS 127 million per year. Some will receive the aid for five years – NIS 1,040 in the first four years, and 75 percent of that sum in the fifth year.
During that year, the students will be able to work half-days and study during the other half of the day, and will be expected to be fully employed by the end of the year.
The National Student Union, which filed the original petition against the kollel stipends 10 years ago and has held demonstrations around Israel over the past few months, credited their struggle with the “good results.”
“We think these are good recommendations that will increase solidarity in our society and make it a more egalitarian one,” union head Itzik Shmuli said in a statement. “At the same time, we expect them to be legislated in the Knesset to ensure their future implementation.”
Shmuli also praised Gabai for taking the students’ recommendations into account, “a refreshing change in the regime’s attitude to the student population.”
The cabinet will also be asked to vote on changes to the Tal Law, which regulates haredi enlistment to the army and civilian service. According to the the Gabai Committee’s recommendations, the number of haredim serving in both tracks will double to 4,800 by the year 2015, and the automatic exemption of 22-year-old kollel students from military service will be canceled.
Haredim who postpone their army service are currently prohibited from entering the workforce.
By increasing the number of haredim who serve in the IDF or in national service, the number of those who can legally seek employment would grow.