The Knesset .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MKs began what was expected to be a full night and perhaps morning of voting on the 2015-2016 state budget Wednesday afternoon.
The Knesset had approximately 700 votes on its agenda on the budget’s various articles and multiple objections to each one, even after the coalition imposed limitations on the opposition’s unprecedented 32,000 objections.
Lawmakers pressed the voting buttons on their screens again and again, with the occasional mishap, such as when opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) accidentally voted with the coalition.
Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) lifted signs to instruct coalitions on whether to vote in favor – if it was a vote on an article of the budget – or against – if it was an opposition objection.
Before the voting began, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon presented the budget, saying it seeks to make life better |for young people.
“Gaps grew to dangerous dimensions. The socioeconomic situation was a real danger to our national strength. We declared war [on social gaps] and we are determined to win,” Kahlon stated, adding that he believes in “a free market and social responsibility.”
The highlights of the state budget that Kahlon mentioned included raising pay for IDF soldiers in mandatory service; unemployment benefits for the self-employed; banking reforms; increased funding for public housing; education welfare; and higher child allotments.
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“Where I grew up, children were considered a blessing, but in the opposition they think children are a burden,” he said, to shouts from opposition MKs.
Kahlon pointed to the 2.9 percent deficit as an indication the budget is responsible.
“I vowed to remember where I came from. When we need to help the weak, we will be there and we will do it,” he stated.
“We are bringing Israel home, bringing pride back to the elderly, bringing human dignity to the workers.”
Kahlon concluded by saying that all MKs have a moral obligation to support the budget.
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said the budget is an improvement in many areas, such as the cost of living.
“We are doing good things for the nation, but it is still not enough,” he said. “The budget isn’t perfect, but I have been through 26 budgets and, for the first time, everything is transparent and on the table.”
Herzog, however, came out against the budget, saying he doubts even Kahlon really supports it.
Pointing to the mostly empty coalition seats during his speech, Herzog said: “You may not listen to me, but you are not listening to the citizens of Israel, either.
“I know the prime minister doesn’t care that we cannot live here with the rising cost of living and there is no solution to the housing crisis, but does it not interest the ministers, either? How can you send young people to war when you don’t care about their future?” he asked.
Herzog also referred to the government’s natural gas deal, calling it “unfair” and saying it does not serve the citizens.
The opposition leader also said the budget serves pressure groups, the extreme Right and settlements.
“We will do everything to make it difficult for you,” Herzog warned.
Earlier, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said that with the new budget, “everyone gets something, except the citizens of Israel.”
“MKs demanded tens of millions for little projects of their parties’ central committee members, of people close to them, of their relatives, their parties’ institutions – everyone but the Israeli public.”
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