Knesset Debate on IDF Scholarships Begins with Long Night Ahead

By Shmuel Smith

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right), Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid (center) and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, at the Knesset on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – The Knesset began debate on a contentious bill for funding tuition scholarships for IDF veterans, a session that was expected to last well into the night and Tuesday morning, according to The Times of Israel.

While promoting educational opportunities for former soldiers is generally not a controversial topic in Israel, the issue was the extent of funding. The coalition has backed a bill to maintain the level of funding for the program that started a few years ago at 75%. The Likud is demanding 100%, or it will vote against it.

The coalition has so far refused to compromise, but given its current lack of a majority in the Knesset, that could mean the bill will not pass.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett criticized the opposition on Tuesday for threatening to block a bill for IDF veterans—not because they oppose it in principle, but as part of their campaign to thwart any government legislation, with the aim of bringing it down.

“IDF soldiers fought for us. We need to give them what they deserve today and not in another four years when Likud comes back,” Bennett told journalists outside his Knesset office. “Don’t do small politics, don’t raise a hand against IDF fighters.”

Senior Likud MK Miri Regev acknowledged her party’s aim earlier in the day in a recording aired by Channel 12 News.

“We decided that we’re the fighting opposition and we want to bring down this government. So we don’t feel bad over soldiers…because we all understand that this is the rationale.”

The Likud has struggled to maintain party unity on the issue, as many of its members do not want to be forced into a position of voting against veterans benefits.

Likud MK Avi Dichter recommended that the Likud MKs absent themselves from the vote so there would be a majority to enable the bill to pass, The Jerusalem Post reported. Likud officials said their MKs planned to harangue the plenum for 15 hours starting Monday evening.

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