Cabinet meeting to be held for first time in five weeks

Members to convene Tuesday to discuss NIS 11b. in supplementary funds to deal with COVID economic fallout

Defense Minister Benny Gantz talks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi walks by at a cabinet meeting on June 7 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz talks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi walks by at a cabinet meeting on June 7
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The first cabinet meeting for five weeks will be held on Tuesday, following a tumultuous period of damaging political infighting between coalition partners Likud and Blue and White and a last-minute measure that stopped the slide into new elections.
The meeting will deal with the highly contentious issue of the state budget, which was the proximate cause of the crisis, which roiled the coalition in July and August, and which led to the highly irregular cancellation of cabinet meetings in those months.
No agreement has yet been found to the dispute over approving a two-year budget, as demanded by Blue and White and which was agreed upon in its coalition agreement with the Likud, and the Likud’s demand for a one-year budget.
The deadline for passing a budget, which was originally August 24, was extended as part of a compromise to avoid the automatic dissolution of the Knesset and new elections, to December 23.
Cabinet ministers will be asked to approve NIS 11 billion in supplementary funds for the budget to deal with the battering caused to the economy by the COVID-19 crisis, and will be held on Tuesday instead of Sunday to give the Finance Ministry enough time to prepare the required documentation.
Separately, opposition leader MK Yair Lapid strongly rejected the possibility of agreeing to another delay for the government by the High Court of Justice for passing ultra-Orthodox enlistment legislation.
The previous arrangement giving haredi yeshiva students blanket exemptions from IDF service was struck down in 2017 by the High Court as discriminatory, and the government was given a year to pass a new law regulating military service for the ultra-Orthodox.
The government initially asked for an extension before the 12-month deadline expired, but ever since the government fell in December 2018 the state’s requests to the court for further delays have been accepted.
With less than two weeks before the next deadline arrives, United Torah Judaism and Shas have come to an agreement with Benny Gantz, Blue and White leader, defense minister and alternate prime minister, to request another three-month delay from the High Court, according to a report on the Behadrei Haredim ultra-Orthodox news website on Saturday night.
Lapid, whose Yesh Atid Party is one of the petitioners against the law passed by the previous government reinstating blanket military service exemptions, said he would not agree to a new delay.
“We will oppose any postponement of the High Court on this issue. Until now the issue was postponed due to the elections, [but] now there is a ‘unity government’,” tweeted Lapid.
“The enlistment law must pass as is with the formulation of the Defense Ministry,” he continued in reference to the draft legislation drawn up by the ministry in 2018 when Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman was defense minister.
“The fact that two [former] IDF chiefs of staff are evading their responsibility is a disgrace and they are turning their backs on the public, which does serve and work,” said the Yesh Atid leader.
Lapid has recently faced a challenge from one of Yesh Atid’s original MKs, Ofer Shelah, who has called on the party leader to allow for leadership primaries and said he would seek the chairmanship of the party.
On Saturday night he published his suggested outline for Yesh Atid primaries, with a date for the election to be held between December 1-15 this year.
He said an electoral commission should be established for the primaries and be headed by a retired judge, and that any citizen could vote in the primaries on condition that they were not a registered member of a different political party in the past six months.
“Ever since announcing my intention of holding primaries for the Yesh Atid Party, I’ve encountered both enthusiasm and embarrassment. That’s what happens when it’s time to transition a big party to the next, necessary level of its political life,” Shelah said.
Lapid has agreed in principle to the necessity of having primaries, but not to Shelah’s initial demand to hold them immediately, saying other parties, particularly the Likud, could sabotage such elections if the proper preparations are not made.