What happened: Local government, school principals and parent groups have all heavily criticised the appointment of MK Avi Maoz from the Noam Party to a position within the Prime Minister’s office with authority over external curricula content in the state-run education system.
- Maoz is best known for his long-standing opposition to the LGBTQ community and highly conservative views.
- In response to his appointment the Tel Aviv municipality declared it would continue to fund external educational content “in keeping with the spirit of this city.” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said, “The message that has been sent from local authorities is strong and clear: We will not allow anyone to play games with the education of our children. I will make sure that in our city, we continue to educate in keeping with our values.”
- Over the weekend, dozens more mayors, including from the Likud, expressed their objections to Maoz’s appointment and announced that they would fund educational content themselves. The Likud Mayor from Bat Yam Tzvika Brot said, “No party has a monopoly on Judaism, just as no party has a monopoly on pluralism. We will not allow anyone to meddle with our policies or values and change the status quo in this city.”
- Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama Hacohen, a former Likud MK, said “The city of Ramat Gan will fund two hours of class time on liberalism, inclusiveness and equality for every hour the government slashes on those topics.”
- In addition, around 200 school principals sent a letter to the designated prime minister Netanyahu. They wrote, “We, school principals from across the country, from a range of sectors will stand strong to protect our democracy and the basic rights of the citizens of this country when it comes to issues related to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. We hereby express our opposition to the removal of the unit responsible for external content and partnerships from the Education Ministry and transferring responsibility for that unit to a department that will be headed by Avi Maoz of the Noam Party, who has openly expressed his racist, homophobic views that are very benighted and very extreme, which cancel, divide, tear apart and hurt entire communities and broad identities in Israeli society. We will not allow benighted views to dictate the agenda in our schools. We call for this decision to be changed immediately,”
- In addition, more than 660 civics teachers and educators wrote, “We will not quietly accept educational leadership that promotes, via legislation and action, anti-democratic actions that is damaging to human rights.”
Context: The Noam Party was elected as part of the Religious Zionist list, but since the election the list has splintered into its constituent parts, leaving Maoz as his own one-person faction.
- According to the agreement he reached with the Likud, Maoz will serve as a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
- He will head the unit for external content and partnerships that was taken from the Education Ministry. The role overseas all of the curricula beyond core curricula, such as maths, English, sciences. The unit has a budget of NIS 2 billion (around £480m).
- Privately, some in the Likud now acknowledge that this appointment was a mistake. They had thought that the unit was a small and unimportant department in the Education Ministry, and failed to realise the influence he could have.
- One theory under consideration is to hold up the transfer of authorities to Maoz, to create a crisis whereby Maoz will resign and quit the coalition. The coalition could still function with 63 instead of 64 members. However, others in the Likud have dismissed this approach.
- Another suggestion is that Netanyahu himself would oversee Maoz. Responding to this idea, outgoing prime minister Lapid wrote yesterday on Facebook: “Netanyahu said that he would ‘personally supervise’ the Gefen Unit, which is responsible for educational programmes at schools. Netanyahu knows that that’s a lie. He is saying that in the hope that the storm will blow over. Netanyahu knows that he has done something terrible—he has placed in the hands of a dangerous racist a budget of more than two billion shekels, with an open ticket to the hearts and minds of every child in Israel. Don’t let Maoz near your children. The authority is in your hands, and you can stop this.”
Looking ahead: Tomorrow the outgoing education minister, Yifat Shasha-Biton, is scheduled to convene an emergency conference. Attendees are expected to include outgoing Prime Minister Lapid, Defence Minister Benny Gantz, MKs, mayors, former education ministers, educators, parents and representatives of civil society organisations.