Contrary to what the press usually writes, the chareidi community
is severely victimized by discrimination in the heavy portions of
the budget, and it is only in a few small niches that it manages to
secure any advantage. Even these traditional preserves of the religious
community have come under attack from the anti-religious Left and
their pluralistic cronies. Now it seems that an Invisible Hand has
turned what started as another grab from religious money into a broad
administrative crisis that can only benefit us.
The Chairman of the Finance Committee opened what was supposed to
be a routine meeting discussing the budget of the Ministry of Religions
by asking a representative of the Attorney General's office to speak.
This was an unprecedented step, and MKs Rabbis Moshe Gafni and Yaakov
Litzman of UTJ demanded to know why the budget discussions of the
Ministry of Religions deserved this special privilege. Religious MKs
have learned the hard way that surprises from the direction of the
Israeli judiciary system are rarely pleasant.
The guest from the Attorney General's office had invited himself to
explain to the members of the Finance Committee the recent High Court
decision that found that the budget had not dealt fairly with the
Israeli Conservative movement.
This did not sit well with the UTJ MKs. They reacted spontaneously:
"What? The budget of the Ministry of Religions is illegal? What
about the Farm Ministry? Let's see if its allocation of NIS 500 million
to the kibbutzim is fair and equal? What about sports?"
In truth, the uninvited visitor represented an insult and a breaking
down of the division of powers that characterizes a healthy democracy.
Judicial review is bad enough the way it is currently practiced, but
this would be judicial dictating and meddling in the legislative process.
Things quickly deteriorated and the chairman left the room for a few
minutes to let things quiet down. When he came back, the Committee
They demanded nothing less than that the entire budget be sent back
to the government for review and that it be certified by the Attorney
General that it meets the Court's criteria for fairness before the
Knesset Finance Committee will deal with it! They insisted that each
paragraph and section must have the specific approval of the Attorney
General or they would not consider it at all.
The State Budget is a thoroughly political document. It is riddled
with all kinds of inequities -- as it should be. It should reflect
policy decisions of the elected government about where to spend and
where not to spend. One of the reasons that the government is elected
is to spend the money of the State for certain ends. However, if the
Court forces the budget of the Ministry of Religions to be allocated
according to objective criteria of fairness, there is every reason
to expect that the budgets of all the other ministries should meet
the same standards.
Writing in the business daily Globes, Tzvi Lavi noted, "What
began as a simple attempt to guarantee fairness in government support
of religious institutions can now develop into a new allocation of
the entire budget among the various sectors. First of all this will
mean a significant increase in the budget of the Arab sector in all
areas, and even an increase to the chareidi sector in education."
This is a development that we can only welcome. The inequities in
the education budget dwarf the meager compensation that was traditionally
thrown to the religious sector in the Ministry of Religions.
If the State money is truly given out fairly, we have a lot to gain.