As the future of the coalition hangs in the balance, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman is reportedly planning a wave of new economic cuts and measures that would target the ultra-Orthodox community.
According to Channel 12 news, Liberman — a longtime foe of the Haredi political parties who is often vocal about his efforts to enact unwanted change in the community — is planning a series of new measures as he considers the possibility that the government will not succeed in passing a 2023 budget before a new election is called.
The report claims that Liberman is looking to advance three new measures: cutting the budget allocated to yeshiva studies by a third — from NIS 1.2 billion ($360 million) to NIS 800 million ($240 million); funding the private Haredi school system at 75% as opposed to 100%; and allocating benefits like daycare subsidies, rental assistance and arnona (property tax) discounts only to those who earn a certain level of income — cutting off those who study full time.
Of note is the purported attempt to intervene in daycare subsidies, an issue that Yamina MK Nir Orbach explicitly demanded remain untouched as part of an ultimatum for him to remain in the splintering coalition.
Initially, Liberman had pushed a plan under which, starting in 2023, subsidies for childcare would only be granted if parents work at least 24 hours a week. The move would have effectively ended subsidies for some 21,000 children, many of them from ultra-Orthodox families in which the father learns in yeshiva.
But after the pressure from Orbach last month, Liberman agreed to push off the plan, and have the cut only go into effect in 2024.
Liberman himself did not publicly respond to Wednesday’s report.
The opposition Religious Zionism party reacted to the Channel 12 news report Wednesday evening, calling Liberman’s supposed aims racist.
“Orbach, who just recently succeeded in pushing off the harm to Torah study and to daycare subsidies, received a demeaning slap in the face today from Liberman,” the party said in a statement.
The party declared that Liberman’s “racist decrees will not pass, mostly because this government will not survive to pass them,” and decried members of the religious-Zionist aligned Yamina for enabling the government.