JERUSALEM (Dec. 2)
Representatives of the Likud-led coalition withdrew the budget bill from the Knesset agenda Monday to forestall a vote that might have toppled Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s government on the eve of bilateral peace talks.
The budget, which must be enacted by the end of the year, has to pass its final readings in the plenum.
But what should have been a routine roll call became a coalition crisis when the National Religious Party threatened to cast its five votes against the measure.
The NRP, which is affiliated with the religious Zionist movement, Mizrachi, has refused to support a budget that includes “special funding” for institutions of the non-Zionist haredi bloc, consisting of the ultra-Orthodox Shas, Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah parties.
The haredi parties will not vote for a budget that does not contain the special funding.
In either case, the government probably would fall.
Shamir offered a compromise acceptable to the haredi parties. But the NRP balked, and the vote was postponed again.
Shamir proposed to abolish the special funding, which was opposed across the political spectrum.
Instead, each of the haredi parties would have its educational system funded directly out of the national budget.
The NRP objected on grounds that the haredi schools would not be required to meet the same criteria for funding as do all educational institutions.
Haredi politicians accused the NRP of “trying to destroy haredi education.”