Knesset approves budget after filibuster thwarted

Following 18-hour debate that lasted well into the night, Knesset approves electoral reform bill, budget proposal.

Knesset budget debate 29.7.13 370 (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Knesset budget debate 29.7.13 370
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
The Knesset approved the state budget and the Economic Arrangements Bill on Monday evening, after a parliamentary session that lasted well into the night.
The Economic Arrangements Bill passed in its final reading with 56 MKs in favor and 38 opposed. The budget bill passed in its final reading with 58 MKs in favor and 43 opposed.
The Knesset began voting on the bills Monday afternoon, in what was planned to be a 24-hour marathon parliamentary session.
MKs voted on more than 4,000 objections on the budget, with the opposition insisting on a manual roll-call vote for almost every objection in order to drag out the process as long as possible.
However, after 13 hours in the plenum, opposition parties and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came to an agreement in which coalition and opposition MKs would hold a dialogue on the controversial Electoral Reform Bill, which will be brought to a first vote Wednesday.
As part of the agreement, electoral reform will not be brought to a final vote until November.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) closed the budget debate, which had lasted nearly 24 non-consecutive hours by that point in the morning.
Yacimovich dedicated her speech to mocking Lapid as the “spokesmodel” of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s economic policy.
According to Yacimovich, Netanyahu was looking for “a younger presenter, who’s more connected to trends and uses teleprompters, Facebook and other gadgets, with experience on TV and with endorsements, who has no problem selling anything. He has to be cool, go to protests, hold signs, and wear black T-shirts with slogans against the government.”
“Does that sound crazy now that we’re voting on the Netanyahu budget, oops, I mean the Lapid budget?” Yacimovich asked. “Lapid criticized Netanyahu, mocked him, promised to do the opposite of him, but he became his spokesmodel.”
According to Yacimovich, the minute the “spokesmodel” got his new job, he forgot about the protests and promises and dedicated himself to presenting Netanyahu’s vision.
“You’ve done something unforgivable,” she said. “You broke the faith of the people who can really make change, who believed that a democratic act is possible, that they can get involved.”
Lapid’s address continued in the vein of his previous speeches on the budget – that the opposition is denying reality.
“I wish I could present the budget the opposition wants – to give and give and give – but now that we’re done with fantasies, lets talk about the real world with a real budget and a real Knesset,” he stated. “The opposition chose to ignore the deficit, as if it doesn’t exist, and preferred to close its eyes.”
Lapid said he put the middle class at the center of the budget and cut the defense budget as no government has in years.
“This is a budget that will encourage growth,” Lapid continued.
“This budget is first of all fair. It creates incentives for employment and encourages small businesses. We increased the education, welfare and transportation budget. We added NIS 500 million for Holocaust survivors. We did what we could in the real world, for real people.”
When the voting began, the opposition did all it could to wear out the coalition, insisting on a rollcall vote for every article in the budget.
Many of the objections were not substantive and were clearly meant to delay the proceedings. One was about changing the name of the budget bill to explicitly say that it “increases the burden on the middle and lower classes.”
If the opposition would have succeeded in pushing off the budget vote past 12 a.m. on August 1, the Knesset would have had to call a new election.
Haredi MKs became agitated over votes on cutting child allotments, with MK Ya’acov Litzman (UTJ) waving his hands and shouting so much he turned red.
“You’re starving Jewish children!” he yelled. “We will not forgive you! What cruelty! You should be ashamed!” The Knesset took two breaks from the voting on Monday: one for mincha, Jewish afternoon prayers, and another for Iftar, the celebratory break-fast meal each evening of Ramadan.
Some MKs napped during the Iftar break, after 10 hours of nonstop voting.
On Sunday night, Herzog sent Labor MKs a letter encouraging them to rest up for a long fight.
“We are going to try to exhaust the coalition in order to win votes,” he wrote. “Therefore, I ask you to cooperate. Don’t show signs of breaking and don’t complain. It’s important to show we’re awake and understand every article [of the budget]. A lot can happen in a tiring night like this, but our morale is essential.”