Knesset starts final votes on budget

Budget likely to be approved Tuesday; Yacimovich calls Lapid PM's economic "spokesmodel," Lapid says opposition is clueless.

Knesset budget debate 29.7.13 370 (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Knesset budget debate 29.7.13 370
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
The Knesset began voting on the state budget and Economic Arrangements Bill Monday afternoon, in a 24-hour marathon parliamentary session.
MKs were set to vote on over 4000 objections on the budget, with the opposition insisting on a manual roll call vote on almost every one to drag out the process as long as possible.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid closed the budget debate, which had lasted nearly 24 non-consecutive hours at 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 looked 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, 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 said. "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. You broke the faith of the people who can really change, who believed that a democratic act is possible, that they can get involved," she stated.
Lapid 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 did in years.
"This is a budget that will encourage growth. 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," Lapid explained.
When the voting began, the opposition did all it could to wear out the coalition, insisting on roll call votes.
Senior ministers brought books to entertain themselves in the over 20 hours of vote after vote without speeches, where all they had to do was say "in favor" or "opposed" every few minutes.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu read a biography of former UK prime minister Winston Churchill, while Economy Minister Naftali Bennett brought a book about former US president Abraham Lincoln.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid read a book by a fellow MK, Labor's Nachman Shai: "Media War: Reaching for Hearts and Minds," about Israeli public diplomacy in times of conflict, while Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz delved into "The Wallet and the Sword," a book by former justice minister Daniel Friedmann on the complex relationship between the judiciary and the executive and legislative branches of Israeli government.
Opposition MKs said their over 4,000 objections to the budget were meant to make the process take as long as possible, in order to prevent the Knesset from voting on electoral reform and a bill requiring a referendum on peace treaties conceding land.
However, the Knesset agenda clearly states that the final budget vote will take place by 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, 24 hours after Monday's meeting began.
In addition, most of the objections were not substantive and were just meant to take time. For example, one was about changing the name of the budget bill to say that it "increases the burden on the middle and lower classes."
On Sunday night, Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog sent party 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. 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 night like this, which is tiring, but our morale is essential," Herzog wrote.
Follow The Jerusalem Post's Knesset correspondent, Lahav Harkov, as she tweets live from the budget debate: