Soldiers’ Tuition Funding Gets Tangled up in Politics

By Shmuel Smith

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

YERUSHALAYIM – A broadly popular bill to fund tuition scholarships for IDF soldiers after completing their service may not pass the Knesset in a vote next week due to opposition politics.

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud said on Thursday it will vote against the coalition-backed bill unless funding is increased from two-thirds to 100 percent of the cost of tuition.

That demand came in response to disgruntlement within Likud over the prospect of voting against an important benefit for soldiers, a politically unpopular stance in Israel where army service is so much a part of society.

“IDF soldiers are the iron wall that stands between us and our enemies and gives life to the State of Israel,” MK Yoav Gallant — a former IDF general — tweeted Wednesday. “I will continue to lead the effort to persuade members of the Likud faction to unanimously support the proposal.”

“Netanyahu has argued that it is more important to show that the government, which recently lost its majority, is unable to pass legislation than to advance this specific measure,” The Times of Israel wrote on Thursday.

But in order to placate the party’s MKs, he decided to condition support of the bill on full funding.

However, as Netanyahu knows, the coalition isn’t likely to agree to it, having rejected the proposal in the past, insisting that the program has always been funded at a level of 66 percent. Accepting the Likud amendment would cost the coalition an additional 50 million shekels ($15 million).

Making the most of the discomfort of Likud MKs voting against soldiers’ benefits, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a joint statement that they would bring the bill for a roll call on Monday.

In a roll call vote, the Knesset roster is read and each MK votes aloud.

“All discharged fighters and their families will be able to watch Likud MKs on live broadcast,” the statement read. “We call on members of the opposition to put politics aside, for the sake of our soldiers,” it said.

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