Bloomberg News

Israeli Cabinet Debates Budget Cuts, Funding of Early Education

January 09, 2012

Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet is discussing possible changes to the 2012 budget, including cuts and more funding to support free early childhood education.

The proposed changes include a 700 million ($182 million) shekel across-the-board reduction in ministry budgets and an additional 700 million shekel cut in specific projects, including transportation and some designed to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser said today in an interview on Army Radio. The plan would make education free for children from the age of three, instead of age five.

“We are in the midst of a revolution in education,” Netanyahu said today at the Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, according to a text message from this office. “We are going to help young couples with this law, which will cover 250,000 children.”

Netanyahu has been under pressure to increase spending for education and social welfare following demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of Israelis this summer against the high cost of living. The premier appointed a committee led by Manuel Trajtenberg that recommended trimming defense spending and increasing benefits for families with small children.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Jan. 5 that he and the other ministers in his Independence party oppose the proposed budget cuts. He offered as an alternative increasing the deficit, “if there is no other choice.”

Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias criticized the plan today, saying that while he favored free early education, the proposed cuts would come mostly at the expense of the poor.

“Lets not shoot from the hip,” Atias told Army Radio. “Lets hear what the alternatives are.”

--With assistance from Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem. Editors: John Deane, Louis Meixler

To contact the reporter on this story: Alisa Odenheimer in Jerusalem at aodenheimer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.


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