(JNi.media) “Despite the opposition’s amendments, 32,000 altogether—which shows how serious they are—we will pass a budget this week,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the start of the budget debate which began Wednesday afternoon.
Rookie Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon opened the budget debate with a call to Knesset Members to vote for his budget, and the Knesset plenum is already engaged in second and third voting on both the state budget and the Economic Arrangements Law for 2015-2016–which incorporates all bills and legislative amendments required for the government to fulfill its economic policy. The agenda calls for 600 votes, give or take, a process that will last many consecutive hours until some time Thursday morning.
This legislative marathon began with a brilliant parliamentary trick on the part of the opposition parties, led by MK Itzhak Herzog (Zionist Camp). The idea was to topple the government through excessive amendments. The math was simple: by law the budget must be approved by Thursday night at the latest, or the government falls and the country goes to new elections. So the opposition parties amassed 32,000 amendments to the budget, expecting that with a vote on each amendment the debate would last well into Shabbat afternoon, and by then the Netanyahu government would have been a faint memory.
But there are crafty parliamentarians on the Coalition side, too, and they decided on a precedent: they bunched related amendments together to create six hundred groups, allotting one vote per group, so that the process would last not more than 15 hours—give or take.
MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp) threatened to appeal the anti-ambush ambush call of the House Committee to the High Court, and MK Israel Eichler (UTJ) told him: “Be my guest, submit all the amendments to the Supreme Court and let the justices sit and vote for two weeks running on those 32,000 amendments. They are the real sovereigns anyway, let them legislate a little…”
Netanyahu, whose 61-59 majority government was not supposed to last through the start of the Jewish year appears to be sailing calmly into New Year’s, and is very pleased with his budget, which “maintains a proper, responsible macroeconomic framework for Israel, but also adds billions to education, welfare and health, and is accompanied by very important reforms to lower the cost of living, streamline our bureaucracy and advance the Israeli economy. The economy is very strong, very stable, one of the most prominent among the world’s economies, and our responsibility is to continue this trend.”
“All that’s required of us is 24 hours of discipline,” Netanyahu commented on the marathon budget vote. “We proved that we are good at being disciplined, our small electoral advantage is meaningful, and we will maintain it and pass the Budget.”
Finance Minister Kahlon was especially proud of his defense budget: “We have reached an historic agreement with the security forces and the army,” he boasted to Calcalist. “An agreement which includes a large scale streamlining of the system alongside intensification and a multi-year budget. We’ve done away with the phenomenon of IDF officers having to court the politicians to get a bigger budget, otherwise they’d stop military training — we made that phenomenon disappear and it is no more.”
Kahlon continued: “We raised conscripts’ pay by 50%,” noting, “I think that’s not enough, they deserve more.” Israeli enlisted men and women get laughably small monthly salaries, which widens the gap between soldiers from rich and poor homes. “We want a strong economy, a healthy society and a strong army,” Kahlon said.