(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
The Knesset House Committee voted to reduce 32,000 objections to the state budget to several hundred votes on Tuesday, after the opposition refused to back down from its planned filibuster.
The unprecedented number of objections amounted to over 11 days of voting, which will begin on Wednesday afternoon. According to the law, if the budget does not pass by November 20, there must be an election.
The House Committee determined 10-7 to vote by category of objections to the budget, reducing the number of votes to 492, including 20 roll call votes. After that, the Knesset will decide on the Economic Arrangements Bill. Altogether, the process is expected to amount to about 15 hours, ending on Thursday morning.
House Committee chairman David Bitan (Likud) explained that it is not possible to extend the budget approval deadline.
The opposition “unreasonably and negatively took advantage of the possibility of submitting objections,” Bitan said. “In light of the circumstances, they could lead to an election. Ninety-nine percent of these objections are irrelevant and pointless and are just meant to be obstacles for the government.”
Some of the objections on which the opposition requested a vote are additions or subtractions of NIS 0 to budgetary items.
Bitan added that he is willing to compromise but he will not allow “cynical use of objections to waste time and bring a new election.”
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Opposition MKs complained that the coalition’s proposal to vote by subject was undemocratic, and called for a compromise.
At the same time, opposition faction leaders refused to compromise.
Bitan pointed out that coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) and Zionist Union faction leader Merav Michaeli already negotiated and did not reach an agreement.
Michaeli told the committee that “a filibuster is a first-rate parliamentary tool. Objections are a legitimate tool even if the coalition thinks they are nonsense. The opposition’s job is to want to bring down the government, and it has the right to use all the tools it has to do so.”
“What are these unilateral steps?” MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) asked Bitan. “You are walking on a tightrope.
You are distorting basic democratic management.”
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said some of the 32,000 objections are pointless.
“The issue is the parliamentary system... You could tell us to just go home because the coalition has a majority anyway. You are eating away at the opposition’s tools,” Rozin stated.
Meanwhile, the plenum remained mostly empty during the second day of budget discussions, with less than a dozen legislators present most of the time.
Rather than participate in parliamentary debate, Zionist Union went to Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market to complain about the budget.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) called on the coalition to “invest in small businesses instead of the government. Invest in daycare centers instead of the government. Invest in developing industry instead of the government.”
“This budget is one of the Netanyahu governments giving in to pressure groups, the extreme right and isolated settlements,” he stated. “We are not willing to abandon small business owners, young families, veterans.”
Herzog said he believes this will be the government’s “first and last budget” and that he will do all he can to make it so.
Soon after, the Mahaneh Yehuda vendors’ organization sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers, stating that they are not part of the Zionist Union’s campaign and they oppose it.
“No party will try to lead a political campaign on the backs of Mahaneh Yehuda vendors,” the letter stated.
“The vendors are aware of the help and support of the government’s ministers in recent years.”
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