The Knesset plenum on Monday passed in its first reading an amendment that would give the government an additional 100 days to approve the state budget beyond the current August 25 deadline.
62 MKs supported the bill in a roll-call vote, while 38 voted against the legislation. The bill must pass with a majority of 61 out of the 120 lawmakers in the Knesset.
By law, a government that takes office during a year when no budget has been passed must push through its own budget within 100 days, or the government falls. The current government was sworn in on May 17, so the 100 days end on August 25. Under the terms of the bill, that limit would be put off by 100 days until December 3.
The explanatory notes attached to the bill say, “The State of Israel is dealing with a national crisis as a result of the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus. The crisis is being managed by a national unity and emergency government that was formed particularly to deal with the consequences of said pandemic. The characteristics of the crisis and its long-term ramifications have created significant economic uncertainty. To this is added a national challenge in which Israel may, for the first time, deal this coming winter with an event that combines the outbreak of the coronavirus and the outbreak of the flu virus.
“This unique and unprecedented situation requires a different timetable for formulating a budget than the one set in the basic law. Dissolving the Knesset at this time would [significantly] harm the stability of the households, the stability of the Israeli economy and the public’s general interest.”
MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz) presented the bill and said, “We must all do everything we can to prevent elections at this time, so that we can all focus, as one person, on the struggle against the challenge we are facing. Therefore, the 100 days stipulated by the law are not relevant to the current situation.”
Hauser said if a poll were taken today, it would indicate a “clear, decisive and significant” majority among the Israeli public against going to a fourth consecutive election, “regardless of what the Israeli citizens’ stance is on the disagreements between what is referred to as right and left.”
MK Ayelet Shaked (Yemina) said, “The State of Israel needs a budget, it should not postpone the budget. Postponing the budget by three months practically sends thousands of people into the unemployment circle. When there is no budget, the entire third sector collapses. Many NGOs that carry out wonderful projects and also employ a large amount [sic] of people are collapsing.
“This government is less than a government. And it is a little more than a circus,” Shaked told the plenum. “A normalization agreement was reached with the United Arab Emirates; an agreement which [Alternate Prime Minister Benny] Gantz and [Foreign Minister Gabi] Ashkenazi were not aware of, meaning that the prime minister did not bother updating his foreign minister and defense minister [about the agreement] for fear that they would leak it. They do not trust one another, yet they want the public to trust them?”
The bill will now return to the Finance Committee ahead of its second and third readings in the plenum.