Budget set to pass as Labor gives in

Defense budget raised by some NIS 2b. to return to pre-war supplies level.

hirchson 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
hirchson 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The 2007 state budget was set to pass Tuesday in the Knesset Finance Committee after all the factions in the coalition agreed late Monday night to pass it as-is, without the usual last-minute additions and political horse-trading. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson praised the faction heads for "demonstrating responsibility to the Israeli economy" with their willingness to forgo their demands and pass the NIS 295 billion plan. "The time has come to pass the budget," Olmert told the Kadima faction. "There is no more room for negotiations and coalition demands. There is no more room for fighting. What we promised in the coalition agreement will be respected, but beyond that, every party must vote in favor." Hirchson said the Knesset Finance Committee would convene on Tuesday morning to begin voting on the Economic Arrangements Bill that accompanies the budget. In a late-night meeting with Finance Ministry officials at the Knesset, Labor representatives said that if they only received "a few crumbs" instead of all of their demands, they would prefer that no party receive anything. Earlier, Peretz complained to the Labor faction that his partnership with Olmert had "reached the point of zero on both security and socioeconomic issues" and that Olmert had stopped listening to him. He said he wanted the budget to pass but that Labor had red lines. "I am for stability and against threats and I'm not interested in toppling the government, but there are times when you have to say 'enough,'" Peretz said. Coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki said "Labor's threats are a publicity stunt for their party primaries." Olmert told the Kadima faction that the budget for security issues had been raised by nearly NIS 2 billion beyond the budget of 2006 to return all military supplies to pre-war levels. He said the budget would also bring about dramatic changes on socioeconomic issues, especially rebuilding the North, education, the National Insurance Institute and the health basket.