Coalition Passes Budget Law – By Two Fingers

YERUSHALAYIM -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, where he faces one close vote after another. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, where he faces one close vote after another. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

It was after midnight that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could be seen in the Knesset plenum counting on his fingers the number of votes he had for passage of a crucial budget bill.

According to his fingers, Netanyahu could count on only a one-vote majority, too close for comfort. So he sent word to bring back National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, who had gone home early, not feeling well.

Steinitz was reached, rushed back to the Knesset, and in casual clothing, tieless and jacketless, cast his vote some time between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m., Tuesday, to make it 56 to 54 in favor of the government’s bill.

A few Opposition MK’s poked fun at a bleary-eyed Steinitz in his “pajamas,” but the bill passed. It will allow postponement of the deadline for a post-election budget from this week to November 19 and to have a two-year budget for 2015-16.

The late-night session was due to the opposition’s determination to fulfill a post-election promise to make life as miserable as possible for the winners of the election last March. They submitted thousands of objections to the bill, and filibustered for about five hours.

Summoning every MK in the opposition to be present for the voting, they appeared to have as many votes as the coalition at one point, and pressed for an immediate roll call.

It was at this juncture that Economy Minister Aryeh Deri saved the day (or night) with a filibustering speech of his own. Lest there be bittul Torah during his long speech, he used the opportunity to  discourse, among other things, on the postponement of the fast of the 17th of Tammuz this year, because it fell on Shabbos.

After the budget matter was settled, other issues were taken up, and the session did not wind up until close to 4:00 in the morning.