Deri deal clears path for budget

The budget will still have to pass in the Knesset – a much tougher task due to Netanyahu’s narrow majority and the opposition of Bayit Yehudi and United Torah Judaism MKs.

Aryeh Deri (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Aryeh Deri
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet is expected to pass the 2015-16 state budget Wednesday, after a preliminary agreement was reached Tuesday with Shas on fighting poverty.
The budget will still have to pass in the Knesset – a much tougher task due to Netanyahu’s narrow majority and the opposition of Bayit Yehudi and United Torah Judaism MKs, who are trying to prevent cuts in the Education and Health ministries they control.
“There are always demands for more than what is possible, but in the end, correct decisions are made, and that is what will happen this time, too,” Netanyahu said at the start of Tuesday’s socioeconomic cabinet meeting. “Israel will have a budget, because if not, Israel will have no government.
I trust that due to the collective responsibility of the ministers, the budget will indeed be passed.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) told those at the meeting that the budget was socioeconomically sensitive, would create jobs, and would bridge the gaps in Israeli society.
To that end, Shas leader and Economy Minister Arye Deri announced that he had reached an agreement with Kahlon and Finance Ministry officials, who he said had guaranteed him that there would be zero VAT on electricity and water for the poorest 40 percent of the population, and on public transportation for all customers.
However, a source close to Kahlon denied that the agreement was final. Kahlon rejected Deri’s demands that all citizens have 0% VAT on electricity, water and basic household items.
The socioeconomic cabinet voted Tuesday in favor a series of reforms that Kahlon initiated, which he said were necessary to lower the cost of living.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (UTJ) complained at the meeting about the Health Ministry’s budget.
He demanded a NIS 1 billion boost for his budget in order to enable the subsidization of life-saving drugs.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, meanwhile, complained about the cut in the Foreign Ministry budget. He said that at a time when Israel was facing so many global challenges, cutting the Foreign Ministry’s budget was irresponsible.
“It cannot be that money is found for political corruption, but not for maintaining Israel’s international interests,” he said. “The cuts will do great damage to our efforts to improve Israel’s image around
the world.” •