Knesset approves budget cuts, despite opposition

In late night vote, 58 lawmakers voted in favor of the proposed cuts and 44 opposed; MK Gila Gamliel walks out in protest during vote.

June 18, 2013 09:14
4 minute read.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset's Finance Committee, June 11, 2013.

Lapid at Finance C'tee meeting 370. (photo credit: Knesset)

The Knesset House Committee voted on Tuesday afternoon to shrink the text of the Economic Arrangements Bill by about 10 percent, after it and the budget passed their first plenum vote overnight Monday despite receiving a thrashing from coalition and opposition MKs.

The budget was approved in its first reading with 58 lawmakers in favor and 44 opposed, but not before MKs from the coalition and the opposition spent nearly nine hours bashing Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s plans for 2013 and 2014.

The Economic Arrangements bill is passed alongside the state budget and meant to lay out the government’s economic policy in greater detail. The bill tends to be lengthy and often includes articles that are not related to the budget.

However, at least 14 of those articles will be removed and voted on as separate legislation or brought through committees other than the Finance Committee, in accordance with Lapid’s promise to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Lapid was not spared the wrath of coalition MKs on Monday night, with strong criticism coming from the Likud's few non-ministers and several Bayit Yehudi legislators.

MK Gila Gamliel (Likud Beytenu), the coalition budget coordinator in the Knesset Finance Committee, slammed the 2013-14 draft budget, listing several sections that “cannot be approved by the committee, because they have no justification.”

“Unfortunately, when I look at the budget, I see inexperience,” she said. “Where is the logic? Where is the long-term vision? Do your homework.”

After Gamliel’s speech, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) joked: “Come sit in my seat, Gila.”

Gamliel walked out of the plenum rather than vote for the budget.

“We need to find a more just path. We cannot harm those who are helpless. A society who does not help the helpless cannot be called a society,” MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) said.

MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) called the defense budget “fat and overinflated,” and criticized the IDF for cutting reservists’ training first.

Bayit Yehudi MK Zvulun Kalfa called for Lapid to find a way not to harm Torah study in his budget, while increasing equality.

“I personally will find it very difficult to vote in favor of this budget if there are not changes in relation to the Torah world,” Kalfa said.

MK Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) expressed confidence that the budget will be significantly changed in the Knesset Finance Committee.

“The whole coalition has to unite and not let [tax hikes] on housing pass,” Regev added.

After the vote, Lapid met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) and asked the prime minister to rein in his party and make sure the coalition is more supportive, Likud sources said.

Soon after, Gamliel was called in to a meeting with the prime minister, in which she told him she had warned Levin of her plans not to vote for the budget.

Meanwhile, the opposition did its job, speaking out against the budget and Lapid.

Mocking Lapid for saying the working man is at the center of the budget, MK Itzik Shmuly (Labor) said “the working man is the bulls-eye of [the Finance Ministry’s] target.”

Labor MK Merav Michaeli pointed out that few coalition lawmakers were present during the debate, and concluded that they must be embarrassed by the budget.

“Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi MKs weren’t in the plenum when the finance minister presented the budget, because they’re ashamed. At least people will stop dying in the State of Israel, since the cemetery budget will be cut by two-thirds,” United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler quipped.

“Beyond being able to use Facebook, there is seriousness, maturity, action and responsibility,” MK Avishai Braverman (Labor) said, referring to Yesh Atid and it chairman Lapid’s extensive use of the social network. “We need a moratorium on politicians using Facebook.”

UTJ MK Yaakov Asher referred to the fact that Lapid’s office translated one of his speeches into Yiddish, using the language to say Lapid “doesn't understand economics.”

“The finance minister didn’t take one shekel from the richest people,” MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) said. “He should be ashamed. From the weaker public, he takes again and again. This house will not let this pass.”

“If this was a vote by secret ballot, what do you think the result would be,” MK Ya’acov Litzman (UTJ) asked Lapid.

“It would pass by a vast majority,” the finance minister responded.

“You wouldn’t even get five supporters! You yourself would vote against it,” Litzman said.

Still, Yesh Atid legislators defended Lapid’s budget.

“This is hypocrisy,” MK Pnina Tamnu-Shata said of the criticism. “Everyone knows that we need to cover the deficit immediately. The cuts hurt, but they’re necessary.”

Lapid concluded the debate by telling Yacimovich: “You could have been in my place as finance minister, presenting your budget, but you were afraid, and you didn’t take responsibility.”

Still, he added: “I don’t have any complaints for the opposition. All they have left to do is argue.”

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