Coalition in Crisis: Bill to Extend Budget Deadline Will Not Be Voted On

View of the Knesset. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

As the clock keeps ticking to the deadline by which the state budget needs to be passed, Aug. 25, and after the Knesset plenum on Monday passed the first reading of the amendment to allow the government an additional 100 days to approve the state budget beyond the current deadline, the Knesset Finance Committee met Wednesday to hold a discussion on the final approval of the law.

The meeting of the Finance Committee concluded without a vote on amendments to legislation postponing the final date by which a state budget must be passed.

If the legislation is not passed in its second and third readings in the Knesset by midnight Monday, the final date for a budget will be in just five days’ time.

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, and new elections will be held. 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.

Shortly after the debate began in the Finance Committee, it was apparent that the committee would not vote on the bill due to disagreements between Blue and White and the Likud.

The chairman of the Blue and White faction, MK Eitan Ginzburg, said, “This is not acceptable, that the Knesset should be dispersed yet again, and there is only one way to ensure it – to approve this law as it is.” MK Zvi Hauser warned: “Five days are left, this is outrageous.”

MK Miki Zohar (Likud) has demanded that four separate issues be included in the bill before it is presented to the Knesset for its second and third readings, including budget arrangements for the religious and chareidi sectors.

This includes funding for yeshivos, religious Zionist causes and the Karev and Hila programs for underprivileged children.

He also asked for the government to give 5% flexibility on the budget.

The budget of the yeshivos and the budgets for the Hila and religious Zionism programs are set as an addition to the existing budgets and were not included in the base of the state budget. In the absence of an approved budget, while those in the base receive the same funding as in previous years, on a monthly basis, those that aren’t in the base of the budget receive very little funding. These institutions are in danger of collapse due to the failure to pass a budget.

In a bad sign for avoiding elections, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Rabbi Moshe Gafni will bring allocations of NIS 400 million to the yeshivos in his committee on Wednesday, just in case the Knesset disperses and elections are initiated.

Housing Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday that talk of elections is unacceptable.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz warned Netanyahu on Tuesday not to initiate a fourth election in just over a year and a half.

“I did not join the government to work for Netanyahu, but to help Israel,” Gantz told reporters at the Defense Ministry. “I won’t get into the tricks and shticks. We made a coalition agreement that formed the government, and the agreement is intended to help Israeli society at this hard time.

“If someone wants to put his own interest ahead of the state’s interest and drag Israel to yet another elections, it would be very grave,” he said. “I think the public won’t forgive him, justifiably. I can promise you that it won’t be me.”