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Israeli government earmarks nearly $1.4 billion to ultra-Orthodox sector in proposed budget

Head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu with Shas head Aryeh Deri at a conference in Jerusalem, Sept. 12, 2022. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s Netanyahu-led government has decided to allocate $1.37 billion (or 1%) of the entire upcoming 2023-2024 state budget to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sector. The allocation is allegedly an effort to accommodate the ultra-Orthodox parties in the government coalition. 

The new total state budget will reach $133 billion and needs to be successfully passed by the Knesset no later than May 29. To do this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will need the political support of his religious coalition partners. 

The Jerusalem, Tradition and Mount Meron Ministry, established in February, will reportedly receive close to $140 million in funding. A corresponding amount is earmarked to advance socio-economic aid to the ultra-Orthodox population, a segment characterized by high levels of poverty and low levels of employment, especially among men. 

The 2023-2024 budget also includes $496,000 in salaries to teachers at ultra-Orthodox schools. In addition, $690,000 will be used to fund yeshiva institutions, traditional religious Jewish schools. 

The stakes are high for Netanyahu because if the government fails to secure the state budget by the end of May, the Knesset will automatically disperse, leading to a new round of elections. 

Several polls in Israeli news media in the last few weeks show that former Defense Minister Benny Gantz is currently the preferred choice for prime minister against Netanyahu.

In the last election in November, Netanyahu and his coalition partners vowed to combat the high and rising costs of living in the Jewish state. 

In March, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich described the new proposed budget as a “critical step” in advancing economic stability in Israeli society. However, at the time of this writing, living expenses continue to rise in Israel. 

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