Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overcame the final hurdles ahead of the budget’s passage by doing what he has done since returning to office in late December – kicking cans down the road.
The following are a few examples out of many:
During November and December, while the negotiations were ongoing between the Likud and its fellow coalition parties to form a government, United Torah Judaism demanded that a new, friendlier haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill pass as a condition for its vote in favor of forming the new government.
After much back-and-forth, UTJ finally agreed that instead of the bill passing by the time the government forms, it will pass by the time the national budget does in May.
As the budget deadline neared, UTJ demanded that the bill be passed, as was agreed to. But in exchange for a promise by the Likud to fulfill its promises to significantly raise funding for yeshivot and haredi schools, the party agreed to kick the can down the road again – this time, to July 31, when the current conscription law expires.
Netanyahu employs same tactic with judicial reform
Another example is the government’s judicial reform. In Netanyahu’s speech on March 27 in which he announced a freeze of the reform’s legislation and agreed to enter talks, he stressed that the decision was temporary – until after Independence Day.
As Independence Day came and went, anonymous “senior members” of the Likud, which usually means Netanyahu himself, said the legislation had not been removed indefinitely, but rather, just until the end of the Knesset’s summer session – again, July 31.
The coalition and opposition agreed in principle to go public with a statement that they had come to an agreement on a relatively small issue: that ministers whose policies are challenged in court can choose whether to be represented by the Attorney-General’s Office or to receive private legal representation – in exchange for a commitment that no judicial reform legislation would pass in the Knesset summer session, Haaretz reported Monday.
The Knesset’s summer recess lasts from August 1 until October 15 – an eternity in Israeli politics. Once again, it appears that the contentious judicial reform issue will be kicked farther down the road.
Netanyahu used the same method to solve the last-minute crises with Agudat Yisrael and Otzma Yehudit ahead of the passing of the budget. Both demanded hundreds of millions of shekels in additional coalition funding. Both ended up receiving NIS 250 million each.
But the additional funds are not an addition to the budget. The funds for Agudat Yisrael will come out of the existing NIS 1.6 billion that its yeshivot are set to receive in the coalition funding. The deficit left at the end of the year, according to the agreement, will be covered by surplus funds out of the party’s own coalition funds at the end of the year. Otzma Yehudit received a similar arrangement.
What will happen if there is not enough surplus funding at the end of the year?
That’s tomorrow’s problem.