Israeli election avoided as state budget passes into law, after 3.5 years

Some opposition MKs mistakenly voted with the coalition, including opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on a budget clause at 1 a.m.

 Moments after the passing of the 2021 budget, October 4, 2021 (photo credit: DANNY SHEMTOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Moments after the passing of the 2021 budget, October 4, 2021
(photo credit: DANNY SHEMTOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)

The Knesset passed the 2021 state budget into law in a 61-59 vote at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, giving Israel a new budget for the first time since March 15, 2018.

By the afternoon, it looked like the 2022 state budget would also be passed by the evening. But then Labor MK Emilie Moatti made a mistake in her vote on a budget clause on funding for school buildings, resulting in a 59-59 vote, and the Finance Committee had to be reconvened to correct the error.

The Likud celebrated the win. MK Miki Zohar said Bennett’s prediction that the coalition would win every vote was proven false.

When the vote on the first budget was announced, coalition MKs applauded and embraced each other in joy. The MKs went to sleep for a few hours and resumed voting on Thursday, passing the Economic Arrangements Law.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised the budget’s passage, writing on Twitter that he was proud that Israel finally had a budget.

 Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sits next to alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as he speaks during the first weekly cabinet meeting of his new government in Jerusalem June 20, 2021. (credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/POOL VIA REUTERS) Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sits next to alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as he speaks during the first weekly cabinet meeting of his new government in Jerusalem June 20, 2021. (credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/POOL VIA REUTERS)

“Israeli citizens are waking up to a holiday,” he wrote.

The budget needed to pass into law by November 14 to prevent the Knesset from being automatically dispersed, which would have initiated elections in February.

Netanyahu gives a speech ahead of voting on the budget in the Knesset on Wednesday night. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Netanyahu gives a speech ahead of voting on the budget in the Knesset on Wednesday night. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

According to the coalition agreement, now that a budget has been passed, if elections are initiated for the remainder of the term, the caretaker prime minister will be Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and not Bennett.

The Knesset then passed in a 61-57 vote the Economic Arrangements Law which includes key reforms, including raising the retirement age for women, a congestion tax in the Tel Aviv area and a controversial reform in kosher certification.

Bennett told reporters in the Knesset that the 2022 budget would pass and that after that, his government would serve all sectors of the population.

There were no mistakes made by the coalition before that in a marathon voting session on budget clauses and amendments submitted by the opposition.

But there were opposition MKs who mistakenly voted with the coalition, including opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu who raised his hand in favor of a budget clause at 1 a.m. Shas leader Arye Deri also voted with the coalition by mistake on a vote. Netanyahu mistakenly voted with the coalition five more times over the course of the day.

Mocking his own mistaken vote with the coalition, Netanyahu wrote on Twitter: “It happens that people get confused when they vote. Ask everyone who voted for Bennett.”

Netanyahu met with individual coalition members in an effort to persuade them to vote against the budget and bring the government down. Channel 12 reported that he even sent a mediator to Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday with a proposal for a government led by Gantz.

Yamina MK Abir Kara told Army Radio on Thursday that officials from the Likud Party and other opposition factions had approached him and offered almost everything except for a rotation. “It is not tempting. We managed to do the inconceivable with six mandates.”

The Likud offered on Thursday to rescind its amendments and expedite the passage of the 2022 state budget if the coalition would agree to enable the opposition to help monitor funding for the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party. Zohar said his party wanted to make sure Ra’am did not funnel state money to Hamas.

Lapid responded that he saw the offer as a joke, and he would not accept it.