Smotrich Presents Additional Budget for 2024 to Finance Committee

By Aryeh Stern

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Finance Committee, chaired by MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), convened on Monday for a debate on the additional budget for 2024.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said, “This is a morning of mixed feelings — great joy; the combatants, the Shin Bet, the National Counter-Terrorism Unit (Yamam), the IDF, are restoring to some degree our national pride. A key ethos of the State of Israel is that we spare no effort to save a Jew in trouble. Along with this, we were informed of the death of two heroic combatants from Maglan and we have more hostages who need to be brought home. It is a complex morning, and in this respect there is no coalition and opposition, we all experience this emotional upheaval in which there is a great deal of pain, but along with this the nation is displaying strength that we may have forgotten it had.

“That brings us to the budget. We are placing the reservists in the center, with the soldiers in regular service, with the homefront and the backing that they receive from the families. This is important for us all, the Israeli spirit. It is also in this budget. We will not save money when it comes to the reservists, we’ve put NIS 9 billion into this budget, and if it costs more, let it cost more. For an economy we need security, that’s what security is for. Victory will be achieved thanks to the national home front of the State of Israel, which is showing staying power. We see how surprised the enemy is by this; it thought that the Israeli home front couldn’t take it anymore. This is also thanks to the unity in Israeli society and first and foremost among the soldiers.

“It’s fine to have an opposition and coalition, but it’s very important to me that here too the deliberations should be deliberations of unity. We can also change things; I don’t think we have all the wisdom in the Finance Ministry and the government. If there are good comments, we will listen to them and implement what we can. In terms of pressure applied by the world too, a great deal depends on our togetherness. There can be arguments, but we should do it differently.

“I had three challenges in submitting this budget. The first is to meet all the needs of the war, on the front lines and on the home front, until victory. When we presented the amended budget for 2023, I also said that I was adopting an expansive policy. This war started in a very difficult fashion. We have to build our economic policy in a way that brings the tidings to the residents of southern Israel, to the reservists, and to everyone that there is a state here, and there is someone to hold you up during crisis periods.

“I insist on forming a public committee on the security doctrine, but at the first stage we are channeling money into the war machine, because that’s the basis of our existence. There are also budgets for personal security, welfare, health, and rehabilitation, including rehabilitation of the Tekuma region, the Gaza perimeter region. That is part of our victory. These regions will have to enlarge themselves in the coming years, so the budget has grown; it has also grown for reasons of construction, employment, and more.

“However, in the fiscal reality there are no free lunches, and you can see that we have taken convergence measures in the current budget for 2024 too, and more importantly, measures for the budgets of 2025 onwards. This marks responsible policy to the markets and to the public, and the understanding that it’s true that there is a war and there are needs and we’re doing it, but we have to do this with fiscal balances.

“The third thing — and I have been laughed at for saying this — is that it needs to be done with unity. I believe this, it’s not just lip service. A budget always has differences of opinion, because it reflects priorities. That’s all right, and there are different views and different priorities on different sides of the political map. If I were to let my camp or the other to make cutbacks where they consider it less important, that would be easy, but I said that I wouldn’t do this in wartime. Sinwar is sitting in the bunker, and when he sees us unified and strong he despairs and breaks down, and he will also give back the hostages and surrender. But when he sees rifts between us he becomes stronger. So we are converging, but we aren’t slaughtering any sacred cows. Some will shout about the budget for [the theater] and others will shout about the budget for the settlements, but you won’t succeed in dragging me into these battles. There are no cutbacks in unimportant things, everything is important, and there are things that are more important. This requires severe cutbacks and all the sectors and all the ministries are experiencing it; I have tried to make it balanced.

“The same is true when it comes to revenues. There’s a war. We didn’t focus on specific things, we tried to make it as broad as possible. It’s more difficult and it took more time, and that’s why we were also late in submitting the budget. We were late because I didn’t want to take the easy way out, and it took more time. This correction gives a tailwind to the war with all its needs, and it is also responsible. We will try to maintain our national unity and refrain from stepping on landmines that will blow us all up here. We are fighting together against the Nazis of Hamas-ISIS in Gaza. A strong economy knows how to support security needs, and strong security is an economic engine. I am requesting and begging that we do this together,” said Smotrich.

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