An announcement by Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Orna Barbivai on Wednesday that there will be a two-month delay in the implementation of the “daycare decree” came as quite a surprise, especially since Lieberman told reporters just a day earlier that he’s not afraid of making unpopular decisions like the daycare subsidy cuts.
So what happened? According to a Globes report later on Wednesday, Lieberman’s decision to cut the daycare subsidies was not coordinated with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett or Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and did not meet their approval. It’s true that the cut was one of Lieberman’s demands during coalition agreements but they didn’t expect it to be implemented so soon and without any preparation. Lapid wants the cuts to be made only as part of an overall plan that provides a financial safety net for the families, even a preliminary one, that will minimize the fallout, such as unemployment among Chareidi women.
Additionally, Lieberman, who professes that he’s implementing the cut for the “benefit” of the Chareidim, did not coordinate the move with other relevant ministries, including the Economy Ministry, which is responsible for implementing the plan, and the Welfare Ministry, which will deal with the negative repercussions of the plan which is liable to throw many families into poverty.
Furthermore, left-wing MKs from Labor and Meretz, who have strong social values, oppose the plan but received messages from Bennett and Lapid not to fan the flames and the problem will be taken care of quietly. Despite this, many of the left-wing MKs publicly criticized the plan. Even Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas expressed his opposition and asked Bennett to intervene. Joint Arab List chairman Ahmad Tibi [who is not part of the coalition] expressed his opposition to the plan as well.
Additionally, Bennett found himself under attack due to his explicit promise following the formation of the government that he “will not harm the Chareidim.”
The first thing Bennett did was send Yamina MK Idit Silman to work out a compromise with Lieberman. Silman begged Leiberman to delay the plan for a year but he refused.
Meanwhile, Lapid and Bennett consulted with New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar and MK Ze’ev Elkin, who maintain connections with the Chareidi parties. They concluded that they wouldn’t engage Lieberman in an all-out war since the daycare cuts are part of the coalition agreements and instead convince him to delay the cuts.
Economy Minister Orna Barbivai (Yesh Atid) was sent on the mission to convince Lieberman of the need for a delay, armed with alarming data about the immediate consequences of the step, including the closure of daycares in the Chareidi sector, and advance requests from Chareidi families to the Welfare Ministry for financial assistance for the quickly approaching Yamim Tovim.
Barbivai’s first request to Lieberman was to postpone the cut until it could be implemented as part of his comprehensive plan for the Chareidi sector, including vocational training, the introduction of the core curriculum in Chareidi schools, and other measures. Lieberman refused.
Barbivai proposed another plan to delay the move and use the time to mitigate the negative consequences of the decision. Ultimately, Lieberman would only agree to a two-month delay, until November 1, despite the fact that it is clear to both sides that two months [which includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos] are not sufficient for the stated goal.
Even those government officials not necessarily opposed to the daycare cut slammed Lieberman for announcing the cut without any preparation or coordination with the relevant ministries.
The scenario is a fulfillment of reports during the government negotiations when sources said Lieberman will be in full control of all of the government’s financial decisions, making him “the de facto ba’al habayis of the government.”
As Shas MK Michael Malchieli put it, “You take the neighborhood bully, Lieberman, and give him all the money!”
As is well-known, Lieberman plans on using his power to implement measures against Chareidim. “The budget and the coalition agreements include quite a few measures regarding the Chareidi sector, directly and indirectly,” a source in the Finance Ministry told Globes.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)