After two weeks or so during which the Haredi parties drowned out the coalition in the Knesset plenum and in committees, creating the impression of an effective, warlike opposition chopping at the ankles of the enemy, on Wednesday they received the first illustration of what happens when the enemy turns the full power of the state against them. The boom was lowered on the Haredi community in the form of denying daycare to the children of some 18,000 families where the husband is studying full time in a yeshiva. According to Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, these families will lose their daycare subsidy as of September 1.
Starting on the 82nd anniversary of the Blitzkrieg, enjoying the daycare centers for free will require a prerequisite of both parents maximizing their earning capacity. Since yeshiva and Kollel students rely on stipends and certainly aren’t out there hustling for a buck, they’ll have to find a new source of funding for their kid’s daycare. Meanwhile, their wives, who are the chief beneficiaries of the free daycare that allows them to drop off the children and go to work, will have to stay at home to care for them.
It means that about 21,000 children in about 18,000 families where the father of the family is a student at a yeshiva will stop receiving about NIS 1,000 ($305) for daycare. The new clause regarding maximized earning capacity will not affect the eligibility of the children for a daycare where the state controls the rate of tuition, only the subsidy from the state. These families will now have to pay out of pocket between NIS 2,070 and NIS 2,700 ($633 and $825), depending on the age of the child.
The net gain to the state from this cut is estimated at an annual NIS 400 million ($122 million).
To date, the daycare subsidy for low-income families was given based on the parents’ income. Under Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the maximized earning capacity criterion was added, but it was abolished in 2015 after PM Netanyahu let the Haredim back into his coalition government. The maximized utilization of earning capacity has been incorporated as a criterion in other areas in which the state grants subsidy eligibility to citizens, such as public housing.
As of September 1, both parents filing for daycare subsidy must show that they each work at least 24 hours a week.
Religious Zionism chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich on Wednesday responded to Liberman’s decree, saying, “The Torah of Israel is the foundation of our right to exist here. Starving the children of kollel students is a shame and yet another sign of disgrace of this evil government. Shame on you.”
Perhaps, but the finance minister’s move was combined on Wednesday with the early morning passing of the 4-member split legislation, allowing fewer than a third of a party to jump ship. The desperate need of 18,000 families for daycare, fanned by the already existing flames of dissent in the Likud and United Torah Judaism, could tear up the opposition from within.
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir also responded, saying: “Liberman’s racism drives him crazy. Liberman’s blunt decision, backed by Bennett-Shaked, to harm the Haredi public, harms the children themselves first and foremost, and it is a pity that Liberman does not understand this.”
Oh, but he understands this very well, MK Ben-Gvir, and, frankly, the Haredim ain’t seen nothing yet. According to the Ministry of Finance, 93% of the families that receive daycare subsidies belong to the Haredi sector. Liberman couldn’t have targeted his Haredi enemies more directly if he levied a tax on shtreimels.