Prime Minister Naftali Bennett promised on Saturday night that he would fulfill the prime ministerial rotation agreement with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and that the government would last a full term, during a joint press conference celebrating the passage of the state budget.
Asked twice about the rotation agreement in which Lapid is scheduled to become prime minister in September 2023, Bennett twice answered that the rotation agreement would be fulfilled and that the government “will live out its days.”
During the press conference, held jointly with Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, both Bennett and Lapid insisted they were opposed to the opening of a US consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinians and had told them as such.
“We have passed the budget which guarantees economic and political stability,” declared Bennett.
“Quietly, with determination, with cooperation, we have brought the ship to calm waters.”
Bennett praised Lapid, referring to him by his first name Yair, as “a partner and friend,” and to Liberman for having done “excellent work.”
“The government is stable and will live out its days,” he said, adding that the country not currently being in the midst of a fifth election campaign is a “blessing and great gift for the State of Israel,” implicitly justifying his decision to join a coalition with Lapid when he had promised otherwise during the last election campaign.
Bennett said the government would now be able to concentrate on issues that have long been neglected, specifying property prices, log-jammed roads, the cost of living, widespread crime and a lack of governability in the Negev as particular areas of importance.
Asked if he would implement the rotation agreement, Bennett said that “we will fulfill the rotation and the government will fulfill its days,” a question he answered the same way twice.
Lapid quipped wryly in response, “I’m convinced.”
Liberman praised the cooperation of the current government, saying he had never seen such partnership in previous governments he has worked in.
“Yes, sometimes there is friction and conflict, and someone says something and the other responds. In general, the cooperation and mutual responsibility between ministers and heads of parties is something I have never seen before,” said the finance minister, praising Bennett, Lapid and others in the government.
Lapid said the government had “taken responsibility, fulfilled promises, [and] restored sanity to the State of Israel,” adding that the success in passing a budget had been achieved by bridging gaps between different partners and managing crises.
“Instead of stabbing each other in the back, we lent support, we had each other’s back. In this most complex coalition of the State of Israel, we put ego aside in order to build the machine that will move the country,” he said. “We have made history.”
In response to the press conference, the Likud Party asserted that the budget would “increase prices, levy taxes and transfer billions of shekels from Israeli citizens to the Islamic Movement,” adding that the opposition of the right wing is united to “topple the dangerous government of Bennett, Lapid and [Islamist party] Ra’am much quicker than they think.”
IN THE early hours of Friday morning, the 2022 budget passed its final reading in the Knesset with a majority of 59 votes for and 56 against.
The passage of the 2022 state budget was the culmination of some 35 consecutive hours of voting some 800 times, in which the Knesset passed the budgets for 2021 and 2022 and their accompanying Economic Arrangements Law. Coalition MKs took pictures together, celebrating the vote.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he felt passing the budget was “a win for the country but also a personal win for me,” in reference to the fact that opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not fulfill his rotation agreement with Gantz by refusing to pass a budget during the short-lived previous government.
“Whoever acted out of personal motives and caused great harm to the country and its citizens sits in the opposition, and those who care for Israel’s citizens are in the coalition today,” he said.
At the conclusion of the voting, Speaker of the Knesset Mickey Levy criticized the opposition for leaving the plenum before the results were announced.
“The State of Israel finally has a budget,” Levy wrote.
“We will have political stability, and government ministries will be able to operate in an orderly manner,” he wrote. “I am disappointed that the opposition failed to accept the democratic process. I hope with all my heart that we will set out from here on a new path in the relations within the Knesset. It is time for us to have a different, more respectful discourse.”
THE OPPOSITION condemned the passage of the budget.
“The wicked coalition barely managed to pass an evil and cruel budget that has no mercy and no good news on anyone, except for cats, Reform [Jews] and extremist organizations,” United Torah Judaism said in a statement, referring to an allocation for spaying and neutering stray felines. “The government harms the weak and the poor by raising taxes and harsh edicts.”
Shas leader Arye Deri said the budget would also harm the elderly, large families and residents of the periphery. He said his party would continue fighting with full force against “the illegitimate government that is led by a man who does not cross the electoral threshold and is bringing about socioeconomic destruction and the destruction of the democratic character of the state.”
Levy condemned an incident in which Likud MK Orly Levy-Abecassis refused to leave the Knesset Finance Committee, verbally attacking an usher and making her cry.