Photo Credit: INTR

The Knesset commenced with its marathon hours-long debate on the state budget on Tuesday morning, ahead of a series of crucial votes that are expected to begin late Wednesday night.

During the opening of the combined plenary debate on the 2021-2022 state budget bills, Finance Committee Chairman MK Alex Kushnir presented the main sections of the bills and said the budget proposal is “full of reforms that are meant to help the weaker echelons, deal with the cost of living and plant the seeds of growth that will take Israel’s economy forward.”

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“After two years of stagnation and the enslavement of Israel’s economy to personal and political interests, we are here to put an end to it,” he asserted.

The last vote occurred in 2018 and included the budget for 2019. Political instability left the country without a new budget for almost two years.

Kushnir further celebrated the budget as “revolutionary” that has three objectives, “helping the weaker echelons, lowering the cost of living and [introducing] infrastructural and structural reforms that will catapult Israel’s economy forward and increase competition.”

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman discussed what he called “the symbolism” of the budget.

“Today, November 2, is Balfour Declaration day, and we are presenting the budget on this day. The fact that the budget is being presented 142 days after the government was formed shows that we worked,” he proclaimed.

The opposition was allocated over half the time and will use it for filibusters.

The House Committee determined that the combined debate will be summed up on Wednesday evening by Liberman, the Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Leader of the Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu, and Kushnir.

After the summary, the voting will begin on the five state budget bills, a process that includes thousands of individual votes on the budget’s segments.

Political pundits in Israel estimate that the Bennett coalition stands a chance at passing the budget in its final reading. The coalition has until November 14 to do so, or it falls by default.

However, they predict that after the budget is passed, the various opposing factions within the government will attempt to advance their own agendas, which are opposed by other coalition members, creating friction and political instability in an already flimsy setting.

The latest polls show Netanyahu’s Likud party gaining momentum with 35 seats, and Bennett’s party just passing the electoral threshold with only four seats.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.