High Court may delay crackdown on Haredi subsidies in Liberman

The High Court of Justice strongly hinted on Wednesday that it could delay Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman’s crackdown on certain haredi subsidies until next school year.

In issuing an interim conditional order, Judges Uzi Vogelman, Ofer Grosskopf, and Alex Stein told the state that it needed to explain within 14 days on what basis it had the authority to change the rules regarding haredi child care subsidies. after the school year had already started. .

According to Liberman’s decision, haredi families where the husband-father learns in a Kollel-Yeshiva context beyond a certain point, but is not part of the workforce, are not eligible for certain subsidies for the care of children under the age of three. years.

Rather, the policy change would continue to provide subsidies to Israelis with children attending college.

Several Haredi lawyers and organizations had filed petitions against the policy change as discriminatory against the Haredim.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the cabinet meeting, November 7, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM / THE JERUSALEM POST)

A lawyer for the state attorney gave several arguments to support the decision made by both Liberman and the Minister of the Economy, Orna Barbivay.

He pointed out that the magistrates themselves had said that there is no formal right for any citizen to receive subsidies.

He then said that the policy change was formally announced in mid-August, more than a week before the standard school year start date of September 1 and only about 10 days after the previous haredi school year and the date of early start of kindergarten.

In other words, if the Haredi school year had started earlier than the rest of the schools, it was still near the beginning of its year and not actually the middle of the year, months later.

Furthermore, the state attorney said that when the new government was formed in mid-June, he was quite vocal from the outset about his intention to change the subsidy policy to try to encourage Haredi men to join the workforce.

“Everyone knew this was a hot topic and everyone knew there would be a change,” he said.

In addition, the state attorney said widely covered public debates about the policy change were held in July.

All of this led the state to conclude that no haredi parent would have been surprised by the policy change, even if the early school year in haredi began 10 days before the change took effect.

Additionally, the state said there is not enough state-sponsored and supervised childcare for all children under the age of three, and many parents of all backgrounds end up sending their youngest children to other, more informal, unsupervised settings. By the state.

He said a feature of state-supervised child care is an element of uncertainty about subsidies each year and that no one is entitled to perpetual subsidies just because they received them the year before.

In countering these arguments, a lawyer for the Haredi families, Yonatan Feldman, said that Liberman was engaging in “cultural discrimination” against the Haredim.

Feldman said that even if there was no entitlement to subsidies, once the state decided to award subsidies to someone, it could not arbitrarily discriminate.

The judges responded that the state said its distinction of providing subsidies to college students compared to Yeshiva students older than a certain age was not discriminatory because there was proven data that college students were more likely to find work in the force. work and earn more.

Furthermore, the magistrates said it was problematic that the Yeshiva programs did not set a deadline of years to graduate and could go on endlessly, while the university programs had a clear end point for study and, by extension, for grants to child care.

Feldman said that in that case the solution would be to ask Yeshiva haredi programs to give a set number of years in which Yeshiva students could receive subsidies, but that this was something that should be well planned with at least one year of anticipation and not suddenly thrown.

Another lawyer for the haredim, Shmuel Machleb, made an emotional appeal to the judges, saying that “20,000 normative families will face disaster” if the policy is implemented.

In addition, she said the most likely outcome in the real world would be that childcare would become too expensive, and many Haredi women who had joined the workforce would leave their jobs to stay home and take care of childcare tasks. of the kids.

The justices seemed inclined to back Liberman’s power to reform, but demand that he give families more advance notice to plan.


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