Yeshiva funding rankles secular MKs

Religious and secular MKs traded epithets during a heated and vociferous Knesset Finance Committee vote Tuesday that approved a NIS 30 million transfer for haredi yeshivot and kolelim. Likud, National Religious Party, and the haredi parties voted in favor of the transfer. MKs Ronnie Brizon and Ehud Razzabi (Shinui) and MK Haim Oron (Meretz-Yahad) voted against. Brizon called the transfer "political bribery" to the haredi political parties ahead of the upcoming budget vote. "If we don't stop the floodgate of payoffs to the haredim now, it is liable to cost the state hundreds of millions of shekels." Committee Chairman Ya'acov Litzman rebutted, "Why is it that Shinui is tight when support is given to yeshivot, but when it comes to NIS 700m. for chess Shinui's demand is justified?" Litzman was referring to money given to Shinui in exchange for its support for the 2005 budget. Most of the money went to secular culture and higher education. Oron attacked Brizon. "Shinui lost their moral base after they received money in exchange for political support." Litzman said that two years ago the budget for yeshivot and kolelim was NIS 1.32 billion. It was cut to NIS 371m. in the 2005 budget. The coalition agreement signed at the beginning of the year returned just NIS 140m. Shas said it would enter negotiations with the government about the 2006 budget. Aguda Yisrael and Degel Hatorah said the same. "A finance minister was just chosen," said an Aguda spokesman. "We'll give him a chance to get acclimated before we start negotiations."