A general view shows the plenum during the swearing-in ceremony of the 20th Knesset, the new Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem March 31, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset on Tuesday night approved the 2019 budget at its first reading, just hours after the police handed down recommendations to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for two counts of bribery.
The budget, which will need to be passed at second and third readings before it is made official, was approved 61-51. The new budget is set to include a budget of 63 billion for defense, 60 billion for education and 38 billion for health.
Netanyahu and Kahlon took the uncommon step of presenting the 2019 budget nearly a year in advance, in order to stabilize the coalition, which won’t have to deal with another budget before an election is legally required – in November 2019.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon celebrated the move, posting on his Facebook that the approval "is already strengthening the Israeli economy, and the fruits of its labor will benefit Israeli citizens."
Kahlon added he was "aware" of the backlash from the Right and Left following the news of the police recommendations, but clarified that only the Attorney General may make decisions on whether to file an indictment.
He also called on the public and politicians to "stop attacks on the police and the rule of law."
In the week leading up to the announcement of the indictment recommendations, Netanyahu lashed out at the police several times on social media, questioning the integrity of the investigators and their ability to do their jobs.
Lahav Harkov and Max Schindler contributed to this report.