High Court Blocks Crackdown on Haredi Subsidies by Liberman

On Wednesday, the High Court of Justice blocked the crackdown by Avigdor Liberman, the Finance Minister, on certain haredi subsidies till the next school year. Liberman’s authority for making the reform was upheld by the justices, but he was asked to offer more advance notice to families in order to plan for the changes in budget and rules. Justices Ofer Grosskopf, Alex Stein and Uzi Vogelman had issued an interim conditional order back in November, asking the state for an explanation within 14 days about the authority they had used for changing the rules about subsidies associated with haredi child care after the beginning of the school year. 

Liberman’s decision dictates that haredi families will not be eligible for some subsidies for childcare for kids below the age of three, if the father-husband past a certain point in a Kollel-Yeshiva context, but doesn’t constitute as part of the workforce. In comparison, the change in policy would still provide Israelis with subsidies for children who are enrolled in universities. Petitions against the change in policy had been filed by multiple haredi organizations and lawyers, calling it discriminatory against haredim. Several arguments were presented by a lawyer for the state attorney at a hearing in November for supporting the decision that had been made by Liberman and Orna Barbiva, the Economy Minister. 

She stated that the justices themselves had noted that citizens did not have a formal right for receiving subsidies. She also added that the change in policy had been announced back in mid-August, which was almost a week before the beginning of the school year on September 1st and was 10 days after the early childcare and haredi school year start date. Put simply, even if the haredi school year had begun, it was still in the initial days and not months later, in the middle of the year. 

The state lawyer also said that in the November hearing that the new government, which had formed in mid-June, had been quite vocal from the beginning about changing the subsidy policy for encouraging haredi men to become part of the workforce. She said that everyone was aware this was a burning issue and a change would happen. The state attorney added that there had been several debates about the policy change in July, which had been widely covered. This had led the state to conclude that the change in policy wouldn’t come as a surprise to any haredi parents, even if their school year begins 10 days before the policy was put into effect.

In addition, the state added that there wasn’t enough subsidized and state over-seen childcare available for kids under three for everyone. This prompted many parents to send their kids to other non-state and informal supervised contexts. She added that people were not entitled to subsidies just because they had gotten them the year before because perpetual subsidies are not given and there is an element of uncertainty. However, the justices remain unconvinced and Justices Stein and Grosskopf said that the subsidies would remain until the start of the next school year. 

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