Former PM Bennett: Move is 'neither practical nor moral'

Likud, religious allies said to agree on near-doubling stipends for yeshiva students

Report says likely new coalition to raise monthly handouts to $380, slightly more than soldiers in non-combat units receive, costing taxpayers an additional $439 million a year

Illustrative: Students study at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, September 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Students study at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, September 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Parties in the incoming right-religious coalition expected to be formed by Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly struck a deal Friday to sharply raise the stipends that the state grants to yeshiva students.

The stipends for Orthodox men who spend their days studying instead of working, which currently stand at NIS 700 ($205) per month, will climb to NIS 1,300 ($380), costing Israeli taxpayers an additional NIS 1.5 billion ($439 million) a year, Channel 12 news reported.

The sum is slightly more than soldiers in non-combat units receive, the report said.

The raise was pushed by the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas parties, with backing from the far-right Religious Zionism party.

The increase is likely to garner pushback from the High Court of Justice, which has objected to granting stipends to Haredi students when those studying at non-Orthodox institutions do not receive such stipends.

According to Channel 12, this expected judicial opposition is another reason why Netanyahu’s coalition partners are pushing for legislation that would allow the Knesset to override decisions by the High Court with backing from 61 of the parliament’s 120 members.

Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu (center) meets with UTJ head Yitzchak Goldknopf (second from left) and other party officials, with Likud negotiator Yariv Levin (right) in a Jerusalem hotel on November 6, 2022. (Courtesy)

The planned stipend increase also received pushback from former prime minister Naftali Bennett, who called it “neither practical nor moral.”

Bennett argued that the move “will harm ultra-Orthodox youth, the public’s attitude toward Torah and the future of the State of Israel.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gives a speech at an event in Lod on September 14, 2022 in Lod. (Flash90)

“The increased allowances will encourage more young people not to go out to work or learn a profession, since it is more convenient to stay in the yeshiva,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

“The ultra-Orthodox are our brothers, and they are the fastest growing population in Israel, therefore their responsibility toward the state must increase accordingly,” Bennett said.

Netanyahu received recommendations from all 64 lawmakers in his Likud party along with Shas, United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism. He will be formally tapped with forming a government on Sunday.

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