After three and a half years if you count from the passing of the last budget, or two and a half if you start from the expiration of the 2018 budget, Israel finally has a new budget to carry it through 2022. The new budget was passed around 3:00 AM Friday, with a 59 to 56 vote, at the end of a 66-hour debate that began at 9:00 AM Tuesday.
So, what’s in the 2022 budget? According to the Finance Ministry, the 2022 state budget will be NIS 452.5 billion ($145.56 billion). The biggest overall spending will be on Education: about NIS 70 billion ($22.5 billion). Second biggest—although it will likely be amended for unexpected emergency spending, Defense: about NIS 60 billion ($19.3 billion). Health: NIS 45 billion ($14.4 billion); Transportation development: about NIS 36 billion ($11.6 billion); Welfare: about NIS 15 billion ($4.82 billion); Higher education: about NIS 12 billion ($3.86 billion).
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman announced gleefully: “Prime Minister, we have approved a budget. But beyond that, the budget brings certainty to Israel. Mabruk (Arabic for Blessings) to the State of Israel.”
The folks that cast the 56 votes against were Less jovial, obviously. MK Shlomo Karhi (Likud) said: “This is an abusive budget against the weak and against Judaism and against the Jewish character of the state.”
Maybe. But the voters aren’t going to have their say until at least 2023, probably later.
Religious Zionism Chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich was also combative, declaring: “We lost this battle but we will win the war, because we have a path, and values, and truth, and we have not sold nor will we sell them for any fortune in the world. And the truth will win in the end.”
Meanwhile, the inevitable knives were pulled out in Yamina after their wayward faction partner MK Amichai Chikli (pronounced Shikli) voted with the opposition on Thursday morning against the 2021 budget. After five months of waiting for Chikli to either change his ways and toe the party line or resign, the party declared him expelled. They can’t force him out of this Knesset, but Chikli will not be able to run in an existing party’s slate in the next election, and if he wishes to run he’ll have to form a new party.
United Torah Judaism issued a statement saying: “The malicious coalition approved by a narrow majority, forced and enforced, a bad and cruel budget, without compassion and without any good news in any area, other than for cats, for the Reform movement, and extremist organizations. We will continue to fight to overthrow the malicious government that was formed in sin, without public support, contrary to all the promises and values.”
The part about public support is true (seeing as the UTJ voted for NIS 5 million a year to spay cats in 2018). The fate of the coalition’s right-wing members, Yamina, New Hope, and if you count Israel Beiteinu as right-wing then they, too, depends on the success of the new budget. If by the end of 2022 the country will do a lot better in key areas such as burgeoning housing prices, the collapsing healthcare system, and the inadequate public transportation, then the three gentlemen, Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar, and Avigdor Liberman could write their own ticket at the expense of Likud. Otherwise, this may be the end of the line for at least two of them (Liberman will survive, most likely).
So we have the next 12 months to see whether the quality of life across the board in Israel is getting better with reformed services and more up-to-date money allocations. As always, the choice between right-leaning and left-leaning coalitions will be in the hands of the 20 or so seats decided by the independents at the center, and they, unlike Likud and Labor-Meretz voters, don’t vote tribal.