Budget Rushed Through First Knesset Reading

YERUSHALAYIM -

Opposition members of Knesset protested the late submission — by 40 days — of the 2015 state budget, which gave them no opportunity to study the several-thousand page document before a preliminary vote late Monday night. It passed a first reading by a vote of 58-46, but not before those voting against it had their say.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) called the budget a “political adventure by a cowardly prime minister and a rookie finance minister that is destined to fail.”

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On contemptuously dismissed Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s claim that the budget would help the middle and lower classes: “If we had a shekel for every time the finance minister lied, we’d pay off the deficit,” she declared.

Incensed by the late submission of the document, United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said, “We see here an attempt to railroad the budget through to voting, which is unacceptable from any point of view. It is,” he added “a bad budget and we are totally opposed to it.”

During the stormy opening debate, UTJ MK Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Mozes denounced the warped priorities reflected by the budget, which provided millions of more shekels for governmental and Knesset operations while ignoring the needs of the poor, especially children.

Singling out the Education Ministry as one of the more egregious examples, Rabbi Mozes told the plenum of increased spending on meetings and refreshments. In 2013, it spent 950,000 shekels on it; in 2014 another 28,000 shekels was added to the ministry’s food budget, plus a 3.500 shekel refrigerator for his car, while children in the country are going hungry.

Prof. Momi Dahan, an expert at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, said: “We have a very difficult problem. We have poverty at insane levels. And I ask myself if the current budget deals with this problem, and the answer is unquestionably No.”

“It’s a problem of values and ethics, but also an economic problem,” he said.