Netanyahu-brokered Haredi unity deal would fund schools that shun secular subjects
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday agreed to fund ultra-Orthodox schools in Israel whether or not they meet state standards if he returns to power, as he plays a matchmaker between two haredi political factions that could be key to his political future.
Netanyahu’s pledge successfully cemented a deal between the Degel HaTorah and Agudat Yisrael parties to reconstitute the United Torah Judaism political alliance, ending a split that could have seen one of the factions fail to enter the Knesset .
Hoping to clinch a 61-seat coalition in the Knesset that will allow him to regain the seat of prime minister, Likud leader Netanyahu is intensely focused on ensuring that his right-wing and religious supporters maximize their electoral potential by uniting factions competing for the same votes, lest one fall below the threshold of four Knesset seats.
Hasidic Agudat Yisrael and non-Hasidic Degel HaTorah, who have run together since 1992 except for a short split in the mid-2000s, had threatened to part ways amid the latter party’s anger over an offer of the Hasidic Belz sect – which is loyal to Agudat Yisrael – to introduce secular subjects such as math and science into its school system in order to receive increased public funding.
The spiritual leader of Degel HaTorah, 99-year-old Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, fervently opposes any state involvement in Haredi education or the introduction of secular subjects into boys’ classrooms.
According to Monday’s deal, if Netanyahu returns to power after the Nov. 1 election, his government would fund schools whether or not they teach the so-called core curriculum, putting ultra-Orthodox schools that avoid those subjects on the back burner. the same footing as public schools. it makes.
Degel Hatorah principal Moshe Gafni, who has led UTJ since last year, described the lack of full state funding for Haredi schools that refuse to teach non-religious subjects as “unjustified discrimination”.
“To me, it’s signed and sealed – we will not enter into any coalition without this discrimination being addressed and teachers’ salaries in haredi schools being put on equal footing with the mainstream school system,” he said. he said, according to the Ynet news site. .
Under current law, schools must offer core curriculum subjects in order to receive full public funding, an incentive designed to ensure that children in haredi school systems graduate with life skills, such as than the ability to read, write and do arithmetic.
The deal comes a day after a bomb New York Times investigation exposed the educational gaps in New York’s Hasidic schools, where students are offered little non-religious education. (In the United States, all ultra-Orthodox are called Hasidic, although Hasidism is a subset of the broader ultra-Orthodox milieu.)
Similar educational shortcomings have been reported in Israel’s Haredi schools.
Many ultra-Orthodox communities eschew the core curricula of their institutions, stating that education should only focus on Torah studies.
However, a growing trend in Israel has seen more and more Haredim seek to enter the job market, which they are unable to do without learning basic skills.
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, of the anti-Netanyahu bloc-aligned National Unity Party, criticized the deal for torpedoing efforts to bring Belz’s school system into the fold. education, as part of a plan that she said would not harm the ultra-Orthodox way of life.
“But Netanyahu is ready to sell these children and the future of the country for his political interests,” she said.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party has accused Netanyahu of ‘endangering the future of hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox people in the labor market and their ability to earn a living…without thinking twice’ .
The parties have until Thursday to submit their lists of candidates. Netanyahu has already struck a deal bringing together the far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties.