Gilad Erdan speaks at JPost Diplomatic Conference.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s No. 2 in the Likud, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, vowed Monday to vote against the 2015-2016 state budget when it comes to a vote in the cabinet Wednesday, unless he receives a promised NIS 300 million boost for police on the streets in 2016 and NIS 500m. for the year after.
Erdan, a Likud strongman, joined Shas and Bayit Yehudi ministers in opposing the budget. Nevertheless, Finance Ministry officials said Monday that it would pass easily among the ministers in the socioeconomic cabinet on Tuesday and in the cabinet Wednesday. The officials said they expect their real challenge to come when the Knesset votes on the budget, because Netanyahu’s coalition has only 61 MKs and no opposition legislators intend to support it.
A meeting between Shas leader Arye Deri and Finance Ministry officials Monday went badly. Sources close to Deri said that, instead of talking about how to implement his demand for zero percent VAT on basic items such as unsliced bread and baby food, the Finance Ministry officials said they were against it.
“They are supposed to implement the agreement, not say whether or not our demand will be in the budget,” a source close to Deri said. “That’s not their job. We have only two hands in the cabinet to vote against the budget, but we have more in the Knesset and we can prevent it from passing. We’ll take this to the end.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said all three Bayit Yehudi ministers would vote against the budget.
Bennett called the proposed education budget cuts “devastating” to the education system. In a statement on Monday Bennett warned that the nearly NIS 1 billion in cuts to education and higher education would cause damage to the weakest students in Israel and widen social gaps instead of minimizing them.
He also spoke of the importance of Israeli academia being at the forefront of science and said that cuts to higher education would drag Israeli academia 20 years back.
Bennett said he does not think the cuts would be approved, saying that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon would not be the man to bring the “destruction of education in the periphery and the widening of social gaps.”
The Federation of Local Authorities in Israel held a press conference on Monday and threatened not to open the school year until the overcrowding of classrooms is resolved and proper funding is allocated to the issue.
“Unfortunately there will need to be a strike if the budget does not change dramatically by September 1,” said Federation of Local Authorities head Haim Bibas, who is close to Netanyahu. “Either education will be a top priority for the government or we will begin an uncompromising struggle until the government goes home.”
Welfare and Social Services Minister Haim Katz (Likud), who earlier threatened to vote against the budget, sounded hopeful Monday.
“How he votes will depend on meetings with Kahlon and whether he keeps his campaign promises to help social services,” Katz’s spokeswoman said. “We hope to reach an agreement on an increase in the ministry’s budget in time for Wednesday’s vote.”
Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) said he would vote in favor of the budget, despite an NIS 460 million cut from his ministry, including NIS 20 million for public transportation. Kahlon said the public transportation cut was done without his knowledge and would be restored.
“In the end, all the ministers will vote in favor,” the transportation minister told Channel 2.Hayah Goldlist Eichler contributed to this report.