Biennial budget sails through Knesset

Kadima blasts vote: Horror of Netanyahu's cut will remain; Likud: Budget will help end financial crisis.

netanyahu knesset speech 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
netanyahu knesset speech 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
With relatively little ado, the Knesset passed the budget for 2009-2010 Wednesday night after fewer than 12 hours of speeches and votes on the house floor. In doing so, it cleared the final few weeks of the brief summer session for a series of explosive bills that the coalition - riding high on its budget success - wants to push through. The Mofaz bill, a piece of government-sponsored legislation that the opposition has attempted to block from reaching the plenum, is expected to be voted upon next week. It is not clear yet whether the opposition will repeat the walk-out it adopted last month to try and prevent a vote on the bill. Another of the so-called "governance laws" that the Netanyahu government is trying to push though to stabilize the political system - the Norwegian Law, which would allow ministers to resign their Knesset seats if named a minister and be replaced by others on their party lists - is set to reach the Law Committee for debate on Monday. A third controversial measure that will also face votes in the coming week is the Israel Lands Authority reform, a bill that the opposition succeeded in separating from the Economic Arrangements Law. That reform was slated for an early-morning final committee hearing on Monday, but MK Shelly Yacimovich, one of the bill's most vocal opponents, submitted an official request Wednesday to open a new debate on two sections of the bill. Yacimovich attacked the reform on the Knesset floor during the speeches Wednesday in advance of the budget vote, one of dozens of speeches that elaborated MKs' opposition to specific clauses of the budget. But despite a threatened filibuster, and the opposition's insistence on dragging out the vote by holding the maximum number of roll-call votes procedurally allowed - seven - the budget sailed through the Knesset, largely on coalition-opposition lines. "The budget passed, but the horror of Netanyahu's cuts will remain," said Kadima spokesman Shmulik Dahan after the vote passed. "Beginning this evening, every Israeli citizen who opens their faucet, lights a cigarette, or fuels their car, is bankrolling Netanyahu's coalition agreements that he made together with his coalition partners, and is greasing the chairs of the most bloated government in the history of Israel. There never has been a government so completely cut off from reality, that sacrificed the public's funds on the altar of moral and political weakness." In the Likud, however, party officials were quick to assert their victory. "Tonight, the Knesset approved by a large majority a social budget and expressed its confidence in the government's economic policy, which will lead the economy to growth and to an end to the financial crisis, and will express the social needs of the State of Israel," said Coalition Chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud). "All of the opposition's attempts to harm the proper passage of the budget failed and the coalition proved its steadfastness and stability."