The Knesset was gearing up to approve the bitterly debated state budget for 2013-14 on Monday night, at the end of a 15-hour session.
The Economic Arrangements Bill, an important adjunct to the main budget, went through on a vote of 56 MKs in favor and 41 opposed. The main budget was expected to pass later in the night.
The Knesset began voting on the legislation Monday afternoon in what was expected to be a 24-hour marathon session featuring upwards of 4,700 objections, with the opposition insisting on manual roll-call votes to drag out the process as long as possible.
However, after 13 hours of parliamentary toil and trouble, opposition parties and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu struck a
deal whereby coalition and opposition MKs would hold a dialogue on the contentious Electoral Reform Bill, which smoothed the way for an abbreviated budget session. The electoral bill will be brought to a first vote Wednesday, but will not be brought to a final vote until November. The delaying actions were aimed at preventing the electoral bill from being voted on before the end of the summer session this week.
During the speeches, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) mocked Finance Minister Yair Lapid as the “presenter” of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s economic policy.
Netanyahu wanted “a younger presenter, who’s more connected to trends and uses teleprompters, Facebook and other gadgets … who has no problem selling anything. He has to be cool, go to protests, hold signs, and wear black T-shirts with slogans against the government,” she said.
“Does that sound crazy now that we’re voting on the Netanyahu budget, oops, I mean the Lapid budget?” Yacimovich asked. “Lapid criticized Netanyahu, mocked him, promised to do the opposite of him, but he became his presenter.”
Lapid reiterated his defense of the austerity budget as a painful but necessary step to save the economy.
“I wish I could present the budget the opposition wants — to give and give and give — but now that we’re done with fantasies, let’s talk about the real world with a real budget and a real Knesset,” he stated. “The opposition chose to ignore the deficit, as if it doesn’t exist, and preferred to close its eyes.”
Chareidi MKs objected throughout but to no avail to the numerous measures in the budget that will harm the chareidi community and its institutions, in particular the cutting of child allotments and of funding to Torah institutions.
But the coalition majority voted as one bloc to approve those measures. The budget for yeshivos has been cut by more than 50 percent, more than any other clause in the entire budget.
In fact, speaking in Knesset yesterday, Lapid boasted that “first we took from the yeshivos and from the rich.” From the rich he took a two percent income tax hike, and from the yeshivos, he issued a 52 percent cut in their budgets.
He also admitted that the motivation behind the cut in child allowances was not an economic decision, but rather an ideological one. “The cut in child care allowances was not a fiscal decision, but rather an ethical one,” he declared.