Budget said to include $1.4 billion for Haredim, as part of coalition deals

Most of the funds will go to yeshivas and teachers at Haredi educational institutions

The Knesset plenum in Jerusalem on March 13, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: The Knesset plenum in Jerusalem on March 13, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With the government hard at work on the 2023-2024 state budget, major networks revealed Sunday that some NIS 5 billion ($1.37 billion) of that budget will be funneled to meet Haredi demands as part of the ultra-Orthodox parties’ coalition deals with Likud.

According to Channels 12 and 13, most of those funds will go to yeshivas and teachers at Haredi educational institutions.

The sum had not been previously known as, unusually, the cabinet only approved the outlines of the budget in February amid intense disagreements, leaving it to the Knesset to handle the brass tacks.

Some NIS 500 million (almost $140 million) will reportedly go to the Jerusalem, Tradition and Mount Meron Ministry, headed by United Torah Judaism’s Meir Porush, and a similar sum to a government body for the socioeconomic advancement of the ultra-Orthodox community.

Another NIS 285 million will go toward the formation of the Authority for Jewish Identity, a body whose function and purpose remain unclear that was promised to far-right MK Avi Maoz of the anti-LGBTQ Noam party.

Millions more will go toward various religious purposes.

Aryeh Deri speaks during a Shas party faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The exorbitant funds directed toward exclusively Haredi purposes under the current government, amid soaring prices, has riled many in the secular public, with the issue — juxtaposed with high unemployment rates and low enlistment rates in the Haredi public — becoming a cause celebre for anti-government protests.

Earlier Sunday the cabinet signed off on a controversial power storage project that is meant to address the concerns of strictly devout Jews about using electricity produced by other Jews on the Sabbath.

The plan for the storage facility in Bnei Brak comes with a price tag of about NIS 120 million ($33 million), which critics say would come out of the pockets of consumers — including those who do not require stored electricity to help them comply with religious laws to observe the Jewish day of rest.

The total budget presented by the government allocates NIS 484.8 billion ($133 billion) in 2023 and NIS 513.7 billion in 2024 ($141 billion), up from NIS 452.5 billion ($124 billion) in 2022.

Netanyahu’s government has until May 29 to successfully complete two remaining budget votes on the Knesset floor or risk automatically triggering the government’s collapse.

Presenting the budget to the Knesset in March, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich hailed it as a “critical step” for promoting economic stability, and said Israel was heading into the current global economic crisis in better condition “than any other country in the world.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at a press conference in Tel Aviv, March 2, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“We can come out of it first, and strong. We are presenting a responsible budget that will help stabilize the economy and prevent the worsening of inflation. The greatest service that can be done for Israeli citizens is to fight against inflation,” he said.

Upon the release of the budget, a Finance Ministry spokesperson released a statement saying that among its chief objectives are reducing the cost of living, reducing market concentration and business sector bureaucratic barriers, developing infrastructure and housing stock, and combating undeclared money.

Yet critics maintain that the budget does not go far enough to reduce the soaring cost of living, a common political promise and the most top-of-mind issue for last November’s general election voters.

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