(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon asked the parties in the coalition on Monday to relax their demands and vote in favor of the 2015-2016 state budget.
Kahlon opened his weekly Kulanu faction meeting to the press for the first time on Monday to deliver the message after multiple parties and ministers said they would vote against the budget in protest.
“The budget we want to bring to the public is socioeconomically sensitive and full of reforms and structural changes without raising taxes,” Kahlon said. “We must remember that the state has only one pot and one budget framework that we all have to work with. Critical decisions must be made on key issues. These issues cross parties and sectors and do not differentiate between religion, race or gender.”
But Shas leader and Economy Minister Arye Deri immediately rejected Kahlon’s request, telling his faction that the finance minister could not justify breaking commitments made during coalition negotiations that he himself approved.
“We honor agreements even when they are not pleasant for us,” Deri said. “For instance, we opposed splitting the Interior Ministry but we voted for it.
No one should think their coalition deal is more important than others.”
Deri rejected accusations that his demands were sectarian, saying that raising child welfare payments and removing value- added tax from basic items would not only help his Sephardi haredi constituency.
“We don’t have an interest in creating crises,” said Deri. “We want the government to last, but we will insist on honoring agreements. We told the prime minister that’s what we expect, and I’m sure that’s what will happen.”
In case coalition MKs vote against the budget, Treasury officials have negotiated with Yisrael Beytenu in an effort to obtain its five votes. Kahlon met with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman but did not reach an agreement on the key issue for his party, pensions for new immigrants.
“We will vote against any budget that does not solve this problem,” Liberman said.
Former finance minister Yair Lapid blamed the problems passing the budget on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“It should have been easy to pass the budget, because there is money,” Lapid told his faction.
“I inherited a big hole in the budget and left Kahlon a surplus. All of the billions were given by Netanyahu to haredim and settlers and anyone else who complained, in order to quiet them down. They are all his natural partners, only the public is not.”