Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu denounced the coalition’s first budget bill as it won approval in a preliminary reading in the Knesset on Thursday.
“The budget you presented today is bad. It includes… tax hikes, in total opposition to your promises. You are hurting farmers, the weaker populations, the periphery, the middle class,” Netanyahu said, speaking to the plenum from behind a glass-enclosed balcony, where he is quarantined after returning from abroad, as required by current health regulations.
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman presented the budgetary proposals on Monday at a press briefing in which he said that the two-year framework would allocate NIS 432 billion ($135 billion) for 2021 and NIS 452 billion ($140 billion) for 2022.
Included are sweeping and controversial reforms of the kashrus establishment and the agriculture industry, taxes on disposable plasticware and sugary drinks, and revised import policies that Israeli farmer have been protesting as a threat to their livelihood.
Rabbi Moshe Gafni, leader of the United Torah Judaism party and former chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, blasted it as “the most anti-social budget that has been in the Knesset in the 33 years since I have been an MK.”
Liberman nevertheless declared: “It is the most social-minded budget in the history of the country.”
The bill passed by a vote of 59 to 53 after negotiations between coalition members. Channel 12 reported that a compromise was reached between the left-wing Meretz party and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina over a regulatory reform measure.
Meretz has expressed concern that the reform, meant to streamline the bureaucracy, will benefit business and industry at the cost of public health and the environment.