Just before the new budget is approved, Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas approached government officials and asked for the allocation of NIS 100 million ($32 million) from his party’s coalition funds for the benefit of the Haredi sector. Abbas told government officials: “We have an alliance of the weakened with Haredi society.”
Coalition funds are given out to the coalition members as part of the new budget to finance extra-budgetary projects. The current coalition funds ate higher by NIS 279 million ($89 million) or 15% than the last Netanyahu government’s funds, and stand at NIS 2.1 billion ($673 million).
These funds support legitimate ends – here are a few examples: Finance Committee Chairman MK Alex Kushnir (Israel Beiteinu) obtained NIS 7 million ($2.2. million) for extra beds for rehabilitating drug addicts; MK Jida Rinawi-Zoabi (Meretz) obtained NIS 5 million ($1.6 million) for scholarships to students from Arab society; MK Meir Yitzhak Halevi (New Hope) received NIS 2 million ($641,000) for transportation from Ben Gurion Airport to Metropolitan Tel Aviv locations for Eilat residents (he used to be their mayor).
The list also includes funds for emergency rooms in hospitals for victims of sexual assault, support for bereaved families, accessibility of information for Russian speakers, support for student villages and youth movements, encouraging settlement in the Gaza Strip envelope, the establishment of centers for deepening Jewish education, and NIS 12 million ($3.8 million) over two years for spaying stray cats. The opposition made a big deal out of that last item, until it was discovered (the internet doesn’t forget) that former PM Benjamin Netanyahu had boasted of doling out NIS 5 million ($1.6 million) annually to this crucial program that curtails the street cat population’s growth.
Last week, United Torah Judaism Chairman MK Moshe Gafni took advantage of a plenum debate that was run by MK Mansour Abbas in his role as Deputy Knesset Speaker and told him: “Israeli culture recognizes only the mainstream of Israeli society. Anyone a little different is not included in the society’s desire to take care of him, his children, his neighborhoods, his cities.”
Gafni told Abbas directly: “They promise you money, and they say it’s true, there’s a great injustice to the Arab public, we promise you NIS 53 billion ($17 billion). I’m not sure if you’ll get one shekel.”
Abbas met Monday night with several Haredi MKs and shared with them that he was diverting some $32 million from his own coalition funds to the Haredi public because “Gafni’s speech touched my heart.” The way Kan 11 News reported it, Abbas plans to review requests from various elements in Haredi society and decide who deserves the support of their Islamist brothers in the “alliance of the weakened.”
All of the above was too much for Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich, who said in a plenum speech on Monday: “I call on my brothers in the Haredi sector, do not be tempted. When Abbas offers to give you NIS 100 million, this is another step in his Islamic ideology. He is fortunate, because of some invertebrate creatures (he meant the Yamina party – DI), small people whom I despise.”
So, what do you, dear reader, think, the Haredim will say no to $32 million because they come from an Islamist ideology? Why are you laughing? I was asking seriously.