Cuts in budgets prompted ministers to boycott cabinet vote.
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
The two-year state budget that was passed by the cabinet on Friday is stirring up the already-muddied waters within the coalition, with Israel Beiteinu ministers vowing over the weekend to vote against it in the Knesset.Tension between the prime minister and Israel Beiteinu is at a high point. The government’s second-largest faction (15 MKs) has geared up for a long fight over the budget – with the party’s ministers boycotting Friday’s vote to protest cuts to their ministries – while battling in the short term to bring the controversial conversion bill to a plenum reading before week’s end.RELATED:Cabinet to reconvene on 2010-2012 budgetEditorial: A hope-inspiring budget“Israel Beiteinu is the senior partner [in the coalition],” Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said following the cabinet meeting, “but we’re treated otherwise.I say to the government and to the prime minister: We’ll meet in the Knesset.We’re voting against the budget – it will not pass!” During an interview with Israel Radio, Aharonovitch complained that his ministry’s budget had been trimmed by approximately NIS 700 million.“If the government doesn’t fund the office, Israeli society will be harmed,” the minister said during the interview on Friday. “The police and the Prisons Service need strengthening.”Israel Beiteinu MK slams aliya not being on gov't agendaImmigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, also from Israel Beiteinu, blasted the cuts to her ministry’s budget request.“This is the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel that aliya is not on the government’s agenda,” Landver said. “The proposed budget is directly harming the absorption and encouragement of aliya. I call upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to get involved, because he said that the absorption of olim is a priority for our government.”Israel Beiteinu ministers, including Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, who was supposed to have been the party’s point man on the budget, complained that Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) had not consulted with them before making the cuts. They said that other coalition parties had received better treatment.Shas’s ministers opposed the draft budget as well.And Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) boycotted the vote to protest cuts in subsidies for the poor.Israel Beiteinu has not backed down from its demand to hold a plenum vote on the conversion bill this week. The bill would enable city rabbis to conduct conversions while ultimately placing the conversion issue under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate.Currently, the law is ambiguous enough to allow converts to be legally recognized by the state without the Chief Rabbinate’s involvement.Netanyahu and his top advisers have worked hard in recent days to delay the vote; any delay will push it off to the Knesset’s winter session, which convenes in October. In the meantime, the unstable relationship between the two largest coalition parties will be further tested when the 10- month partial building moratorium in the West Bank expires in late September.
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