The Knesset approved the first reading of the 2011-2012 state
budget late on Monday night with 62 MKs voting for the measure and 34 opposing it, despite an ongoing dispute inside the coalition
over stipends for haredi kollel students.
Labor leadership candidate
Avishay Braverman was joined by Labor MKs Amir Peretz and Eitan Cabel in boycotted the vote to protest the inclusion of an allocation
of nearly NIS 111 million for the stipends in the draft budget. He accused Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of misleading the public by forming a committee on
Sunday to discuss whether to allocate the stipends and then including them in
the budget the following day.
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“The prime minister and the haredi factions
are engaged in parliamentary thievery by enabling a vote on the stipends without
proper deliberations,” Braverman said. “On such a sensitive issue, I expected
the prime minister to behave more consistently. There is no sense in voting for
the budget tonight before the matter is discussed.
“The rules of proper
management require different behavior.”
Kadima went further, accusing
Netanyahu of “lying disgracefully” and “breaking a new record for cynicism,
chutzpa, and disrespect toward the Israeli public.”
The Prime Minister’s
Office and the Finance Ministry issued clarifications, saying the stipends were
placed in the budget for the first vote but would not be included in the final
readings of the budget bill if they were not legislated by then.
“The government is
acting to legislate the stipends as the High Court of Justice requested,”
Netanyahu’s spokesman Nir Hefetz said. “The legislation will be passed by the
time the budget is brought to a final vote. If the issue is not
legislated by then, the allocation will be set aside in the Treasury’s
United Torah Judaism MKs met with Netanyahu’s advisers at the
Knesset and asked for immediate solutions, not only for the stipend issue but
also for the housing shortage for young haredi couples. They also requested that
the core curriculum not be required in the Ashkenazi haredi school
A spokeswoman for UTJ said the faction voted in favor despite the
Earlier on Monday, the prime minister spoke about the two-year
budget at the Likud’s faction meeting.
“The fact that Israel’s economy is
doing better than much of the world in the midst of the international crisis is
because of our stability and our creativity, which is reflected in our two-year
budget,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister went on in his speech to
explain two new budget measures that the government was eager to
“There are two main revelations in the new budget,” Netanyahu said.
“One is to improve Israel’s physical infrastructure with NIS 1.5 billion for
paving roads and expanding train lines in the North and South.
is to strengthen our human infrastructure, with half a billion shekels for 900
new computerized classrooms, one year of free tuition for college students in
the North and South, and special grants to encourage Israeli academics living
abroad to return home to pursue their careers.”