Moshe Kahlon (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu (right)..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Given that it’s only March, the 2019 Knesset budget need not be passed until December 2018.
In other words, the government coalition – which is sputtering over whether to approve a budget or call snap elections – is manufacturing a crisis.
“I don’t recall them ever having a budget being considered for the following year in the spring of the previous year,” said Professor Dan Ben-David of Tel Aviv University and the Shoresh Institute, who specializes in public policy and budgeting.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon took the uncommon step of presenting the 2019 budget nearly a year in advance in order to stabilize the coalition, which won’t have to deal with another budget before an election is legally required – in November 2019.
But the ultra-Orthodox parties are holding up a vote on the budget to demand that legislation first be passed which formally exempting yeshiva students from the draft.
Yisrael Beytenu head (and Defense Minister) Avigdor Liberman opposes this and is threatening to resign over the issue. That would leave the coalition with 61 seats to 59 in the opposition, which would concern Netanyahu.
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox men and women do not serve in the IDF and the legal status of their exemptions has been called into question by the High Court’s rulings.
It’s politics, plain and simple, and the months of dickering before time’s up could force Israelis to head to the polls once again.
Last week, Kahlon issued an ultimatum regarding the 2019 budget, saying that either it’ll be passed by Passover or he’ll resign.
If the government does not approve the 2019 budget and elections are called, it’s conceivable that a new government could propose a budget with vastly different priorities and allocations.
Currently, the 2019 budget totals NIS 397.3 billion in expenditures.
Among its proposals are shortening Passover and Hanukka school vacations for children up to third grade, cuts to the Foreign Ministry and removing absorption packages for more affluent immigrants.
Funding for the Defense Ministry amounts to NIS 63b. – an increase of 37% since 2014. It surpasses the education budget of NIS 60b., which saw a 38% increase, according to a summary of the budget released by the Finance Ministry.
The health budget will total NIS 38b. – seeing a 60% increase since 2014 – and welfare budget and funding for Holocaust survivors is estimated at NIS 13b., having gone up by 41% during that time.
And more affluent people making aliya may see their benefits cut, as new immigrants with total household assets worth more than NIS 500,000 will be ineligible for the absorption package. It remains unclear how the asset limit will be enforced.