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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Israel’s cabinet set to pass new state budget

Cabinet ministers held marathon consultations with Finance Ministry officials on Sunday, in an effort to pass the 2021-2022 state budget overnight Sunday night.

The budget will then go to the Knesset Finance Committee that will prepare it for the Knesset plenum, where it must pass into law by November 4 to prevent the government from falling. It will be the first state budget to pass in Israel since March 2018.

“After three years in which the State of Israel operated without a budget, the most fundamental tool for managing the country, we are bringing the 2021 to 2022 state budget for approval in the government,” Bennett said at the start of the cabinet meeting. “This is a budget that invests in the future, a budget of growth. We are investing in beneficial public transportation, in Internet infrastructure  and technology, in quality education for our children, in our health system and in our soldiers who will receive the best defense systems to deal with and defeat our enemies.”

Bennett criticized former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for catering to the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) at the expense of the general population.

“This time, the budget does not serve the interest of one sector or another but of that of the entire state of Israel,” Bennett said. “This government is free to serve the general interest. We are decreasing bureaucracy and enlarging competition on behalf of everyone, especially the poorest sectors, who benefit most from adding competition and bringing prices down.”

Bennett said passing the budget would deal a blow to the opposition, which he said wanted Israel to currently be in the midst of a fifth election in under three years.

“Passing the budget will prove the stability of the government and enable the ministers to work in their ministries, implement their plans and serve the public,” he said. “We are proving that this is a government that deals with helping the public and not with itself.”

Nevertheless, the coalition will bring to a vote in the Knesset on Monday the controversial cabinet appointment of renegade Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar, who will then resign from the parliament via the Norwegian Law. The law enables ministers to quit the Knesset and be replaced by the next candidate on their party list and return at the new MK’s expense if he leaves the cabinet.

The opposition will attack the appointment at a special session with Bennett, who was required to come to the plenum, due to a request signed by 40 MKs. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) will also come under attack.

“We cannot allow ourselves a situation in which there will be no budget,” Liberman told the cabinet. “In the press, there has been a lot of disinformation and a lot of fake news. There are no edicts, But there is an attempt to change behavior, with sweetened drinks, which Israelis drink too much, especially in the poorest sectors and with plasticware, which Israelis use five times as much as the rest of the world. Therefore, we must bring that down.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz) and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) flexed their muscles to obtain additional funding for their ministries. Both visited protests that took place outside the Prime Minister’s Office to show solidarity with the demonstrators.

Finance Ministry officials said on Sunday morning that no additional shekel would be added to the budget. But compromises were expected overnight.

The only coalition party not represented in the cabinet is Ra’am (United Arab List). A clause added to Basic Law: The Government last week allowed a second deputy minister to be appointed in the Prime Minister’s Office.

It was intended for Ra’am MK Mazen Genaim, who turned down an offer to serve as a deputy minister in the Construction Ministry under minister Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope). 

Genaim said Sunday that he is not interested in being deputy construction minister, despite the ministry’s ability to help the Arab sector, because “the construction minister builds settlements.”


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