Knesset Passes 2023-2024 Budget Amid Protests

Housing Minister Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, seen during a discussion and a vote on the state budget at the Knesset, Tuesday night. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

​Following a 36-hour debate and a marathon voting session, and after all of the reservations submitted by opposition parliamentary groups were rejected, the state budget for 2023 and 2024 was approved in second and third readings early Wednesday, along with the accompanying Economic Arrangements Bill.

In the final votes, 64 MKs supported the budget bills, versus 56 MKs who opposed. The budget for 2023 will stand at NIS 484 billion, while the 2024 budget will be NIS 514 billion.

While summarizing the debate on the state budget bills Tuesday night, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presented the main sections of the budget and said, “When there are no factual arguments, all that is left is to bash, revile and yell, sometimes before an empty plenum, for yet another headline, irrespective of the facts and even without being familiar with the budget and what it contains. And truthfully, it pays off, because in Israel there is no biting press, there is a press ‘on behalf of.’ And so, overnight, the Municipal Property Tax Fund was transformed from important tidings and an innovative solution for reducing the cost of living, lauded in economic conferences, into a ‘danger to democracy’ and something that undermines the independence of the local government. This is amazing. The exact same legislation, when it emanates from the left, they praise it, and when it comes from the right, they whine.

“In this budget there are great tidings – in housing, infrastructures, education, health, welfare, settlement, security and personal security​. There were those here who thought that threats of strikes would stop us. No, no. That is not us. In the face of these threats, we stood as one, and, lo and behold, when you are not afraid, within two days the strikes were abandoned. And the Municipal Property Tax Fund is just one step.”

Smotrich then listed the sections of the state budget bills and the reforms detailed in the Economic Arrangements Bill. “Compare the scope of the media’s coverage of the chareidi education budgets to the coverage of the rest of the sections of the state budget. The budgets for chareidi education constitute maybe half a percent of the entire budget, barely. Ninety-nine percent of the budget benefits all the citizens of Israel, but they will not show you that. For them, 99% of the reporting will be about the budget for the chareidim, and less than half a percent will be about the rest, because they do not want you to know the truth. You already know why, right? Because when it is the left, they praise, and when it is the right, they whine,” Smotrich said.

“They want to frighten, spark a dispute and incite. They want to topple the rightist Government, and to this end, everything is kosher. But they will not succeed. We are smart, you are smart, the Israeli public is smart and simply does not believe them. You know the truth. This is a good budget. Responsible and restrained on the one hand, and including a series of tidings on the other. This budget is good for all the citizens of Israel: left and right, religious, chareidim and secular, Druze, Arabs. Simply all of Israel’s citizens. Our government is the government of all the citizens of Israel. I am the finance minister of all the citizens of Israel. Friends, they will continue to whine, and we will continue to do the work for the people of Israel.”

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