(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's nascent coalition seemed shakier than ever on Thursday after both Shas and Labor - as well as a number of Likud ministers - said they would not be able to support the planned budget published a day earlier by the Finance Ministry.
If statements made - or conveniently leaked - to the press were any indication, all the major parties have reached a consensus that crosses the divide separating coalition from opposition: the budget is unacceptable.
From Netanyahu on down through the ranks of the coalition, MK after MK rushed to explain how they were not responsible - or even blindsided - by what they portrayed as Finance Ministry bureaucrats working against promises made and received during coalition negotiations.
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini, who was once of the major forces pushing left-wing Labor into Netanyahu's coalition, indicated that he may push for a split from the government if the budget is approved by the cabinet. The budget will officially be presented to the cabinet next week.
Sources close to Eini said he would give the government until Tuesday to rescind the cuts, and if they did not he would work to bring down the government.
Eini met Thursday evening with a top Netanyahu adviser to try to iron out the problem shortly after the prime minister announced he had turned to the Finance Ministry and requested that it reconsider the cuts that impacted the weakest sectors.
Eini is staunchly opposed to a salary freeze proposed for all government employees.
Similarly, Shas ministers and MKs scrambled to condemn the budget proposal, in which child subsidies - a cornerstone of Shas's coalition agreement - were cut by 10%. Netanyahu emphasized that the 10% cut only concerned the increase that he had already promised and not the current funds allocated.
Shas ministers said Thursday that they would not support the budget unless the Finance Ministry made key changes.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who was the first Likud minister to break ranks and battle the budget, was joined Thursday by Environment Minister Gilad Erdan and Communications Minister Moshe Kahalon, both of whom expressed extreme displeasure with the proposal that was delivered at minister's doorsteps late Wednesday evening.
Sa'ar, Erdan and Kahalon all requested that Government Secretary Tzvi Hauser hold an urgent internal meeting of Likud ministers to discuss the cuts proposed in the budget, arguing that they impact the weakest sectors.
Erdan said later Thursday that he woke up in the morning and was shocked to read the media reports about the cuts.
Industry, Trade and Commerce Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezar, one of the Labor members who supported entering the Netanyahu administration, said that "our position is clear - the proposed budget as it was formulated in the Treasury is not practical and is irresponsible."
"It is a combination of lack of economic understanding and social and human apathy," continued Ben-Eliezar. "The budget harms the central issue that I deal with in my ministry - employment - as well as education and national security. I will say it simply - in a period in which people don't have food to eat and are living in modesty, it is impossible to take away the half piece of bread that remains. The state must help and get involved in the crisis. The entire western world understands and the Finance Ministry should understand it."
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