The Knesset Finance Committee approved the transfer of NIS 1 billion to the Defense Ministry on Tuesday and a commitment of NIS 2.3b. more.
Of the money to be transferred immediately, NIS 700 million will go to clearing the military part Sde Dov Airport in north Tel Aviv and NIS 300 million will go to compensating IDF reservists for their service in Operation Protective Edge. The airport is to closed and the area used to build housing.
Part of the money came from the Finance Ministry’s general reserves and some was supposed to go to helping water companies.
In addition, NIS 125m. was taken from the public transportation budget, which sparked an argument that ended when Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) expelled MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) from the meeting.
Shaffir and MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) demanded to know whether or not the Transportation Ministry agreed to the budget cut, with Shaffir shouting and interrupting a Finance Ministry representative several times.
A Knesset guard forcibly removed Shaffir from the room, and Slomiansky told her she should stay outside for five minutes, calm down, and then return.
Shaffir said Slomiansky was “intentionally hiding information from the public and making political deals. He would rather throw out the opposition than have a discussion.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On complained that the Finance Committee had become “a rubber stamp, moving a massive amount of money...
without receiving an explanation as to where it is going and why [more of the] reserve funds aren’t being used.”
Meanwhile, the Labor Party refused to participate in the meeting until Shaffir was brought back.
Once Shaffir returned and the meeting restarted, she and Slomiansky argued once again, this time about the bill canceling VAT for young couples with children, in which at least one spouse performed IDF or civilian service, buying their first apartment.
When the committee was asked to transfer NIS 70m. to the Religious Services Ministry, led by Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, Shaffir accused Slomiansky of striking a political deal with Finance Minister Yair Lapid (the chairman of Yesh Atid) in which the Bayit Yehudi was, in a sense, paid to support the Zero VAT Bill.
The Finance Committee also approved on Tuesday NIS 68m. for the Interior Ministry, which is meant to go to security needs for local authorities in the West Bank following the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers in June.
Similar to Shaffir, Gafni accused Yesh Atid of giving up on its position that funding to settlements needs to be cut, so that Slomiansky will support the Zero VAT Bill, which he previously opposed.
“Not one shekel is being transferred to the South today because of your political deal for the settlements, for your voters,” Shaffir told Slomiansky accusingly. “You should be ashamed of yourselves! All the money goes to the settlements, because that’s all that interests you, not Kibbutz Nahal Oz [on the Gaza border].”
Slomiansky told Shaffir: “You always speak lies, but sometimes you really cross the line.”
As for the housing bill, Gafni lamented that large swaths of the public will be excluded from the benefit.
“We will use all of the tools we have to ensure this bill does not pass, but if it does, that’s democracy, we can’t do anything,” he said. “But it’s important to remember... it will not pass easily.”