Gov't approves NIS 11b. budget increase after late-night talks

The plan's approval by the government means it will move to the Knesset plenum, where it must pass in three readings before December 23.

Israel Katz chats with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel Katz chats with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The cabinet approved an NIS 11 billion budget increase late Wednesday night. The largest portion of it, NIS 3b., will be for the defense budget.
The budget increase includes special grants for the disabled population, a plan to help about 2,000 Falash Mura immigrate to Israel, an aid program to integrate members of the Ethiopian community, dozens of educational programs in state and religious education, a program for the empowerment and development of the Druze and Circassian populations, development and strengthening of settlements in Judea and Samaria, aid budgets for student villages throughout the country, animal-rights programs and more.
“This is important news for all Israeli citizens and populations in need in Israeli society during the coronavirus era,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “I welcome the fact that we have reached agreements with the defense minister. As I pledged, we also made sure to continue the immigration of Falash Mura and increase the defense budget, as we face many different challenges these days.”
Finance Minister Israel Katz said: “I have brought great news for the disabled public as per our promise. It is time to work in full cooperation to demonstrate solidarity and social sensitivity to help the self-employed, employees and business owners overcome the coronavirus crisis and move the economy as a whole to a place of growth.”
The NIS 11b. increase puts the total government budget for 2020 at NIS 411b. An updated three-year budget plan for 2021-2023 was approved during the meeting.
For the plan to pass, the Knesset plenum must approve it in three readings before December 23.

ACCORDING TO the government’s statement, the new plans include:
• Increasing the defense budget by more than NIS 3b.
• Increasing disability benefits for 2020, with a new budget of approximately NIS 900 million.
• A plan to bring an additional 2,000 Falash Mura members, with a budget of NIS 180m.
• Strengthening and increasing the budgets for state religious education, yeshivas, midrashas (study halls), settlements and Jewish identity systems.
• Programs for the empowerment and development of the Druze and Circassian populations.
• A plan to map illegal Palestinian construction in Area C.
• Further development and strengthening of settlements in Judea and Samaria.
• Further development of the excavations in the City of David.
• Programs to empower and strengthen the Ethiopian-Israeli community.
• Programs in the education system:
A continuation of educational programs such as those for training teaching and academic staff, the “Chotem” program, specialization of academics, conditional loans for students in-need, programs for at-risk youths and dropout prevention, programs for the inclusion and integration of special education students, programs in non-formal education, strengthening education in the socio-geographic periphery, special education reform, continued budgeting for the construction of the National Library, a reinforcement of support budgets for youth movements, National Service volunteers, aid budgets for student villages, Torah nuclei and educator groups, an addition to the yeshiva budget and a reinforcement of informal education budgets.
• Acceleration programs for the energy market, energy efficiency programs, investments in natural gas, promotion of “clean” transportation and special budgets for research and development.
• Support for nonprofit organizations that distribute food throughout the year, especially in the run-up to Rosh Hashanah.
• Scholarships for thousands of immigrant students in the coming academic year, budgeting of the envelope activity of the Immigrant Student Administration, educational activities for immigrant children of elementary age, nucleus activity of individual immigrant soldiers and projectors accompanying immigrants in local authorities.
• Grants to encourage investment in industry and small-and medium-sized businesses, promote exports and develop industrial areas.
• Grants to local authorities, which include among other things recovery plans for them, stimulus for the issuance of housing permits, development projects in local authorities and other ongoing grants.
• A budget for local authorities to promote bicycle paths, public transport infrastructure and urban projects to increase road safety.
• A doubling of the budget for spaying stray cats due to a recent rise in the feline population.
• Promoting a national plan for public transportation terminals, in order to reduce barriers for the expansion of public transportation services in Israel.
• A plan for the development of road lighting in Judea and Samaria.