The following report was published in Eretz Yisrael by the Hiddush organization affiliated with the Reform Movement. The report directed against chareidim is self explanatory.
More than 1 billion NIS added to National Budget per year for Religious Purposes without Knesset Approval.
Hiddush- Freedom of Religion for Israel completed a comprehensive investigation focusing on internal changes to the national budget through the Knesset’s Finance Committee.
The report found that a significant amount of funds were added onto the budget without any external supervision. In 2010, 1.05 billion shekels (NIS) worth of allocations were added onto the budget, specifically for religious purposes, which is almost four times more than the budget of the Ministry of Religious Services in that same year. In 2011, the amount came close to 850 million shekels, of which 140 million NIS were categorized by the committee as “For Gafne Coalition Use,” referring to the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism member and Chair of the Knesset Finance Committee, Moshe Gafne. These additional allocations were not included in the budget originally approved by the Knesset, nor did they require approval from any government body besides the Finance Committee.
Throughout the fiscal year, the Knesset Finance Committee receives thousands of requests for fund transfers and budget additions. The Finance Committee can grant additional allocations to the budget based on requests without external approval. There has been a large amount of criticism surrounding the current system because each year the national budget comes out to be much larger than the Knesset-approved budget; there is very little supervision in approving who receives additional funding.
In 2010 alone, 328 million NIS added onto the budget was categorized by the treasury as “Coalition Use”, ” Gafne Coalition Use,” and “UTJ Coalition Use.” In 2011, there was a decline in 119 million NIS in the allocations that were categorized under the any of the terms “Coalition Use.” Shockingly, the amount of allocations that were categorized as “Gafne Coalition Use” jumped almost three times as much from 46 million NIS in 2010 to 124 million NIS in 2011.
Hiddush President, Rabbi Uri Regev commented on the report, saying, “For the last 35 years, the Chairs of the Finance Committee, who traditionally come from an ultra-Orthodox party, have turned the Knesset Finance Committee into a personal ATM connected directly to the tax payer’s pocket. A grotesque amount of funds are transferred without any real public supervision. For years, the Israeli government not only has let the ultra-Orthodox skim its budget, but continued to provide with more and more internal transfers. They have sold the future of the State to the ultra-Orthodox parties in exchange for obedient support in the coalition.”
Rabbi Regev continued, “The Ministry of Finance at least did us a favor and categorized parts of the allocations under names like “Gafni Coalition” or “Shas coalition” so that we know exactly who plundered the public’s piggy bank. In the last elections, the public has spoken and called for a Civil Zionist government. We must expect that Yair Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman will stand by their word and insist that the next chair of the Knesset Finance Committee will not be a sectarian politician. We need to free the Finance Committee from its imprisonment and now is the perfect opportunity to do so.”
What is Hiddush?
Hiddush is an advocacy and public education organization that works to strengthen Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and to realize the promise of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, “for religious freedom and equality for all”. Hiddush is a non-denominational, non-partisan partnership between Israel and world Jewry.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)