Following an almost-24 hour discussion, the Bennett-Lapid government approved the 2021-2022 national budget on Monday morning, the first state budget approved in three years.
The legislation must still be passed by Knesset committees and three Knesset readings before November 4. Failure to pass a budget by the deadline leads to the automatic dissolution of the government.
The coalition had to grapple with a huge hurdle at the last minute as Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz insisted on a much higher sum for health care than was delineated in the first proposal and said he would vote against the budget if his demand wasn’t met.
Ultimately, the Finance Ministry granted the Health Ministry another NIS 2 billion ($619 million) increase in funding.
The budget also includes far-reaching reforms of the kashrus and agriculture industry, sweeping changes to import policies, an increase in electricity and transportation prices, an increase in property taxes, and taxes on sweetened drinks and disposable plasticware.
It also includes the revocation of daycare subsidies for Chareidi families as well as discounts on users of multi-line bus cards, which will also severely affect Chareidi families.
While cuts were made to harm Chareidi families, Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas bragged in an interview on Monday that his party received NIS 30 million. “We didn’t concede even a shekel from our budget,” he said. “Whatever the Arab sector needed it got. Arab citizens don’t have to worry about the implementation of the budget because this government will continue to exist only as long as it’s in Ra’am’s interests.”
Politicians on the left and the right slammed the budget, with former Labor Party chairman Shelly Yachimovich calling it an “anti-social” budget since many of the cuts will affect the weaker strata of society. She especially slammed the left-wing politicians in the coalition, including the members of Meretz and Labor, for not protecting the public.
Likud MK Shlomo Karhi also slammed the passing of the budget. “The budget passed this morning is a black flag waving over the head of this government,” he said. “A damaging budget that entirely consists of harming the weak sectors, users of public transportation, of plasticware, of daycares. And taxes on top of taxes – all to finance this corrupt government.”
UTJ MK Yaakov Litzman said: “The evil government passed a budget this morning that is harmful to the state and harms its weakest citizens. It’s a budget that entirely affects those of lesser means.”
“After years of maintaining a reasonable social policy that included no tax increases, the dam was breached. The politically motivated and ruthless budget of the Bennett-Lieberman-Lapid-Saar government includes ‘hunger decrees’ under the guise of economic reforms, in complete contrast to its promises prior to the elections. While continuing to defraud the public, it severely harms the weakest citizens with a 30% increase in electricity prices, rising property tax rates, rising public transportation prices and eliminating multi-line discounts, without a solution for the handicapped, while severely harming agriculture, increasing housing prices, and prices of drinks and disposable items.”
Religious Zionism chairman Betzalel Smotrich said that the budget aptly reflects the values of the left. “It’s a budget without mention of the periphery, education, Jewish identity, settlements, the Negev and Yehudah and Shomron. It’s a mehadrin left-wing secular budget. I didn’t see any positive mention of right-wing values.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)