Members of Knesset against the Wisconsin Plan’s return to the Knesset
By: Rabbi Idit Lev
On November 11, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee held a hearing on the Wisconsin Plan – yes, the one that was cancelled by the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee with the remarkable unanimous agreement of all of the committee’s members against the government. Since its cancellation, we have entered in an endless cycle in which the government attempts to bring the program back, unsuccessfully for the time being. Rabbi Idit Lev updates us from the Knesset about the ongoing and unending campaign against the return of the Wisconsin Plan:
The recent committee hearing was different from previous ones. The Ministry of Finance, which has presented fully formed and organized plans in the past, arrived this time without an organized plan, at least according to the Ministry’s representative. The representative stated that he came for negotiations with the committee and that the Ministry is open to changes that the committee would like to make. But he did not highlight to the committee members the outline that the Ministry thinks the program must follow. Furthermore, the only significant change that he presented was that the program would be under the management of the Israeli Employment Service. This statement’s meaning is still unclear. The Ministry of Finance’s representative also said that in the absence of agreement between the Ministry and the Committee, there will be no program. What is the meaning of this statement?
No programs for the unemployed
When the Wisconsin Plan was operating, it provided “work support services,” funding for housing, for transportation to work and even babysitting. The funding was for six months, and decreased with each passing month. This was one of the program’s significant tools and it was never granted to the Employment Service. There is no need for legislation to allow the Employment Service to provide this assistance to the unemployed, but the Ministry of Finance refuses to provide these services via the Israeli Employment Service.
Therefore, the statement by the representative of the Ministry of Finance can be taken as a kind of threat – consent to our terms and the State of Israel will invest budgets and resources; don’t consent to our terms and the State of Israel will continue to dry out the Israeli Employment Service and not provide proper services to those who receive income support.
Members of Knesset against the Ministry of Finance
Afterwards, Members of Knesset spoke, most of them with harsh words against the program. They demanded that the Ministry of Finance cease bringing the program to them. Of the MKs, there were two – Rina Frenkel and Adi Kol of the Yesh Atid party – who spoke a bit differently, saying that though there are problems with the program, they insisted that the Israeli Employment Service has failed, and therefore there is a need for the program. It is not clear which part of what they said is believable – that they are against the Israeli Employment Service, or against the Wisconsin Plan.
It felt like they hadn’t really decided what they thought or wanted.
In sum, the Committee Chair, MK Haim Katz, announced that the committee would submit a list of questions to the Ministry of Finance, and that the hearing would continue after the committee received answers. The response from the Ministry of Finance would require them to submit a program outline of their own and to answer the essential question raised by the Committee Chair during the hearing – the cost of privatization vs. its benefit.
The population which receives income support must and should receive assistance to return to the world of employment. This employment must first of all allow them to leave the harsh cycle of poverty and allow for a dignified life. The program must be governmental and not first control the people before it helps them. We are waiting for the next hearing, and to hear the Ministry of Finance’s response, and to take part in the public dialogue.
Click here to read why the Wisconsin Plan is so problematic
tags: Wisconsin, Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, cancel the Wisconsin Plan, campaign against Wisconsin, Ministry of Finance, Israeli Employment Service management, services to the unemployed, The Wisconsin Plan Returns to the Knesset, Wisconsin Plan