Social Welfare Minister Moshe Kahlon said he opposed Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s economic austerity plan in Monday’s cabinet vote, because he could not bear to vote for a plan that would harm the poorest sectors of the population.

Kahlon tried all day Monday to restore cuts that he said would harm the elderly and the handicapped. When he failed, he told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he would vote against Steinitz’s plan.

“My heart didn’t let me vote in favor,” Kahlon said.

“I know of people who live on not much more than 2,000 shekels a month and now they won’t be able to buy fruit. These people need more, not less.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose Shas party ministers voted against the plan, said he would continue fighting to minimize the damage from the cuts. He blamed the country’s economic problems on Steinitz’s lack of foresight.

The four Independence Party ministers voted against for complicated economic reasons.

Independence leader Ehud Barak said that rather than raise taxes and cut cabinet ministries’ budgets, the Treasury should increase the national debt or sell more bonds.

“A country, just like a family, cannot live beyond its means,” Barak said. “When someone in a family needs help, families dip into their personal savings and pay it back later. That is what a country should do as well.”

Kadima on Monday submitted the 25 signatures of MKs necessary to force a special summer Knesset session during the recess after the government passed sweeping austerity reforms. The meeting will be held August 6.

“The little guy will once again have to pay big time,” Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz said. “The little guy cannot carry the weight of the bloated government of Netanyahu on his back. The government scattered checks it could not cover for three years and at the last minute is forcing the public to pay for its irresponsible policies.

“The prime minister needs to ask himself how he brought Israel to an unprecedented economic hole and he needs to explain to the citizens why they have to pay the price.”

Labor head Shelly Yechimovich slammed the government for approving the austerity measures, saying the move would primarily hurt the middle class.

“Netanyahu’s cuts, which were approved today by the government, are not the solution but part of the problem,” she said. “A just and fair economy and society are the basis upon which the state of Israel must be founded. But these concepts are completely foreign to Netanyahu.”

Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On called the cabinet’s decision “cruel.”

“Economic discussions held today by the government were fixed and their results were predetermined,” she said. “Government ministers, many of whom purportedly support the social justice agenda, have betrayed themselves as the lackeys of Netanyahu and Steinitz.”

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