(photo credit: Channel 99)
Two days before the cabinet is expected to vote on the 2011-2012 state budget,
tensions within the coalition rose on Monday as reports spread that Israel
Beiteinu was threatening to skip the vote, and at least one Likud MK said she
would not support her own party’s fiscal plan.
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Despite Israel Beiteinu
chairman Avigdor Lieberman’s assurances to the contrary, reports spread on
Monday evening that his faction was threatening to boycott the budget vote if
its IDF conversions bill were not brought before the House Committee on
In a faction-meeting-turned-press-conference on Monday
afternoon, Lieberman said that his party was “not looking for reasons to create
a crisis, but we will not give up on the interests we represent, our
constituency, or our beliefs.
“There is no contradiction between what I
said since becoming foreign minister and the coalition agreement Israel Beiteinu
signed with Likud,” he continued. “So I hope no one is looking for reasons for
complications and problems and everything will go as planned with the
The conversions bill was supposed to be debated by the House
Committee last week, but vanished into the Knesset scheduling
Israel Beiteinu officials denied the reports about a possible
boycott, but did say there were “contacts” under way with faction leaders to
determine when a hearing on the bill would be held.
During a Likud
faction meeting on Monday evening, MK Miri Regev announced that she would not
vote in favor of the national budget.
“Unfortunately, in the course of
the past year, I have tried to advance housing benefits for young couples
through meetings with Treasury representatives, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz
and representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, but all of my attempts have
failed,” she explained. “The biennial budget offers no solution to the painful
problem of housing for young couples.”
Regev said that she had considered
her move for a while, understanding that a vote against the budget would
constitute a vote of no-confidence in the government.
“I support the
Likud government, which is clearly better than any other government. The
Likud is my home, and the home of hundreds of thousands like me, the Likud that
has always been led by the flag of its social agenda,” she said.
Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) complained on Monday
that a planned cut to his ministry’s budget would undermine efforts to increase
“The current [draft state] budget will join a long line
of cuts that were placed upon the ministry, adding up to over NIS 500 million.
The significance of those cuts is serious damage to the ministry’s planning, and
even to the operational ability and planning of the bodies that are under the
ministry, including key projects in the fields of forensics, technology, safety
and others,” Aharonovitch said.
Meanwhile, the defense budget grew
retroactively on Monday, when the Finance Committee approved a NIS 420m.
addition to the 2010 defense budget. The money was taken from budget surplus
funds earmarked for mortgage subsidies in the Construction and Housing
Meretz chairman Haim Oron complained that the defense budget
had grown by NIS 12 billion, to a total of NIS 61b., in the current year, while
the original plan had been for a NIS 49b. defense budget in
2010. Transfers outside of the budget framework to the defense budget
totaled NIS 2.5b. this year.
Oron asked that Treasury representative Eyal
Epstein detail why the defense budget had so drastically expanded in the current
fiscal year, but Epstein refused to answer Oron’s question out loud, instead
approaching the veteran MK and whispering the answer in his ear.
Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) suggested that Epstein’s reluctance to explain the
details out loud was due to his presence, and offered to leave the
“The Treasury plans in advance hundreds of millions of shekels each
year for subsidizing mortgages, knowing full well that they will not be
used. That way, at the end of the year, they can pass on the funds to
other goals, using the excuse of under-use of funds,” complained Oron, who has
served on the Finance Committee for more than 20 years.
MK Uri Ariel
(National Union) suggested that instead of transferring funds to the defense
budget, the government should instead redirect the unspent money toward
acquiring housing for young couples and for weak sectors of the population.