Bill to increase pensions for IDF officers passes, ending coalition crisis

The bill passed its first reading in a 57-56 vote, with the support of Mansour Abbas and the other MKs of his Ra'am (United Arab List) party. 

 PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett shakes hands with Defense Minister Benny Gantz last month in the Knesset. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett shakes hands with Defense Minister Benny Gantz last month in the Knesset.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz succeeded in passing his bill that will substantially increase pensions for senior IDF officers on Monday, after a compromise was reached that ended a weeklong dispute in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition.

The bill passed its first reading in a 57-56 vote, with the support of Mansour Abbas and the other MKs of his Ra’am (United Arab List) party.

The compromise was reached in a meeting of Bennett, Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and the two main opponents of the bill, Labor leader Merav Michaeli and Deputy Minister Abir Kara (Yamina). In the meeting, Gantz told Michaeli to “not talk about issues she knows nothing about,” compared to him.  

“I am glad that we have reached an agreement that the pensions law will undergo significant revisions in a joint Labor and Welfare and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,” Michaeli said. “I thank the defense minister and his team for their willingness to make changes, for working together, and for the agreements already reached and those we will reach for the welfare of those who serve in the IDF.”

Gantz stressed in a speech to the plenum that he was not asking for any new funding and that it was important to pass the bill to preserve the self-respect of the IDF officers.

 PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett chats with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas in the Knesset in June. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS) PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett chats with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas in the Knesset in June. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

Likud MK Shomo Karhi said the passage of the bill proved that coalition MKs were hypocritical, disconnected from the public and “giving away NIS 1.5 billion in taxpayer funds to Gantz’s friends.”

Gantz announced last Monday that his Blue and White faction would boycott coalition legislation to protest the lack of implementation of his party’s initiatives, including the pension bill. The boycott resulted in the coalition losing a dozen votes on Wednesday.

The government approved an NIS 1.1 billion addition to the budget for pensions of IDF officers in August. The decision gives the chief of staff the ability to increase future pension rates for officers currently serving in the army by up to 11%, according to a calculation based on how long they served.  

Zev Stub contributed to this report.