Israel's cabinet passes new state budget for first time in three years

Bennett: “After three years in which the State of Israel operated without a budget...we are bringing the 2021 to 2022 state budget for approval.”

Cabinet meeting on August 2 where the budget was approved (photo credit: GPO)
Cabinet meeting on August 2 where the budget was approved
(photo credit: GPO)

The budget passed on Monday morning after an agreement was reached overnight between Finance Ministry officials and Health Minister Nitzan Horowtiz on a raise in the health budget of an additional billion shekels.

In total, this will raise the state's Health Ministry budget to two billion shekels.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Israel has a budget. A budget of a government that cares. After three years of being frozen, Israel is returning to work," said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after the budget passed. "I ask the members of the government to understand the magnitude of the moment: after years of neglect, this morning we are bringing in the most daring, most competitive budget, the most helpful to the weaker sectors and the most concerned about the future of our children for years."
Bennett pointed to a number of plans the government has for the future, including building a metro in the Tel Aviv area and increasing competition in the food and kashrut sectors.
The Knesset House Committee decided on Monday that the budget and Economic Arrangements Bill would be placed before the Knesset plenum on August 31, with the first reading of the bill set for September 2.
Cabinet ministers held marathon consultations with Finance Ministry officials on Sunday in an effort to pass the 2021-2022 state budget overnight on Sunday night.
The budget will go to the Knesset Finance Committee that will prepare it for the Knesset plenum, where it must pass into law by November 4 to prevent the government from falling. It will be the first state budget to pass in Israel since March 2018.
“After three years in which the State of Israel operated without a budget – the most fundamental tool for managing the country – we are bringing the 2021 to 2022 state budget for approval in the government,” Bennett said at the start of the cabinet meeting. “This is a budget that invests in the future, a budget of growth. We are investing in beneficial public transportation, in Internet infrastructure and technology, in quality education for our children, in our health system, and in our soldiers who will receive the best defense systems to deal with and defeat our enemies.”
Bennett criticized former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for catering to the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) at the expense of the general population.
“This time the budget does not serve the interest of one sector or another but of that of the entire state of Israel,” Bennett said. “This government is free to serve the general interest. We are decreasing bureaucracy and enlarging competition on behalf of everyone, especially the poorest sectors, who benefit most from adding competition and bringing prices down.”
Bennett said passing the budget would deal a blow to the opposition, which he said wanted Israel to currently be in the midst of a fifth election in under three years.
“Passing the budget will prove the stability of the government and enable the ministers to work in their ministries, implement their plans and serve the public,” he said. “We are proving that this is a government that deals with helping the public and not with itself.”
Nevertheless, the coalition will bring to a vote in the Knesset on Monday the controversial cabinet appointment of renegade Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar, who will then resign from the parliament via the Norwegian Law. The law enables ministers to quit the Knesset and be replaced by the next candidate on their party list and return at the new MK’s expense if he leaves the cabinet.
The opposition will attack the appointment at a special session with Bennett, who is required to come to the plenum due to a request signed by 40 MKs. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) will also come under attack.
“We cannot allow ourselves a situation in which there will be no budget,” Liberman told the cabinet. “In the press, there has been a lot of disinformation and a lot of fake news. There are no edicts, but there is an attempt to change behavior, with sweetened drinks, which Israelis drink too much, especially in the poorest sectors and with plasticware, which Israelis use five times as much as the rest of the world. Therefore, we must bring that down.”
Health Minister Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz) and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) flexed their muscles to obtain additional funding for their ministries. Both visited protests that took place outside the Prime Minister’s Office to show solidarity with the demonstrators.
Finance Ministry officials said on Sunday morning that no additional shekel would be added to the budget, but compromises were expected overnight.
The only coalition party not represented in the cabinet is Ra’am (Joint Arab List). A clause added to Basic Law: The Government last week allowed a second deputy minister to be appointed in the Prime Minister’s Office.
It was intended for Ra’am MK Mazen Genaim, who turned down an offer to serve as a deputy minister in the Construction Ministry under minister Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope). 
Genaim said on Sunday that he is not interested in being deputy construction minister, despite the ministry’s ability to help the Arab sector, because “the construction minister builds settlements.”