Lapid: Cuts will push haredim into workforce

Finance Minister cites Maimonides as a positive example of a working religious Jew.

Lapid addressing the knesset 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lapid addressing the knesset 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Thursday the harshest cuts in his controversial budget were aimed at haredim in hopes of pushing them into the labor force.
“I already cut for the haredim more than ever has been,” he said in a Facebook chat Thursday night, alluding to cuts in child allowances that disproportionally affect the ultra-Orthodox community, whose birth rate is four times the Israeli average. “Israel doesn’t need a culture of allowances, but a culture of work.”
“What are child allowances? Child allowances say ‘I have kids but want someone else to pay.’ Who is paying? Someone else who has kids, who is taking from his kids and giving to others’ kids,” Lapid said. The cuts, he continued, “act to push people to the job market.”
The state’s responsibility for children, he said, was not to subsidize their families, but to provide education and a productive army experience.
“Nobody should bring children into the world and say someone else should pay their bills. Allowances don’t prevent poverty, allowances perpetuate poverty.”
One questioner, who said he was a full-time yeshiva student, complained that cuts would leave his family short of money, and said his wife would have to divorce him to obtain a subsidy for single mothers in order for their family to survive. Isn’t that a “piggish” intervention in his wife’s private life, the man asked? Lapid’s response: “There’s another option – that you’ll work.” Noting that the man would only need to work for 10 hours a week to bridge the difference, Lapid shot back, his decision not to work was the gross intervention into his wife’s private life.
“The Rambam was a doctor,” Lapid added in reference to Maimonides, the great rabbi of the middle ages, “and still managed to be the Rambam.”
Lapid’s video chat was part of a media offensive to shore up support for his budget, which included tax increases and welfare cuts that critics construed as a departure from campaign promises not to harm the middle class.
“Everything that we’re doing today is to ensure that the middle class doesn’t become poor,” Lapid said. “This pain is very temporary. We will come out of it in a year or a year and a half.”
Saying that “fixes” was a better word than “cuts,” Lapid reiterated his talking points of recent days: that the disabled, elderly, Holocaust survivors were shielded from cuts, while the country continued to invest in education. The middle class, he said, would reap many benefits in upcoming economic reforms, which he said would lower the cost of living.