Photo Credit: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90
Almost there: Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich embraces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 18, 2023.

The Knesset plenum on Monday began debating the 2023-2024 budget bill and the accompanying arrangements bill, in preparation for their expected passage in second and third readings sometime on Tuesday. The debate began after the Likud reached settlements with Agudath Israel and Otzma Yehudit which satisfied their demands.

The added funds, NIS 250 million ($68 million) to the Negev and Galilee Ministry under Otzma’s control, and roughly the same amount to Agudah for yeshiva students and educational institutions could not be added to the budget that has already been submitted, because this would have required sending the bill back to committee, and the budget must be passed by the end of May or the Knesset would be dispersed. Netanyahu’s creative solution: the money will be taken from the unused funds of the various ministries.


This should be fun to watch: government ministries that admit they have too much money.

Coalition whip and Knesset Committee Chairman MK Ofir Katz was delighted. “This budget includes great news for the Israeli public,” he announced. “Cancellation of the offsets for people who receive unemployment, disability, old age, and income security benefits (meaning that if individuals receiving these benefits find work, their benefits won’t be cut); increasing grants for heat expenses; opening the food market to competition and lowering prices; streamlining procedures and speeding up construction in the housing sector; the property tax fund law that will combat the housing crisis head on and bring a good solution, encouraging residential construction and lower housing prices.”

Again, we’ll be watching.

Resolving the housing crisis involves a whole lot more than government budget incentives. Among other things, it requires the cooperation of the municipalities – which currently are adamantly against the property tax fund. And it requires thawing state-owning land and rezoning it for housing – a Herculean task if ever there was one. Then there are import taxes on construction material – that one is more of a job for Sisyphus than Hercules…

Likud MK David Bitan, Chairman of the Economic Committee with a vendetta against Netanyahu who didn’t give him a government ministry, signaled some trouble ahead: “We didn’t cause any trouble. But if the Treasury and the government ministries think the Economic Committee will work only for them, they are wrong. They should also work for us. We will not give up the war on the cost of living.”

Yes, the cost of living. So many entanglements of government ministries and state authorities are involved in fighting the monopolies (they’re doing OK, thank you very much), the banks (Hapoalim just announced NIS 2 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2023, that’s $546 million in three months), the AG who prohibits relying on US and EU standards for many products––turning red tape into a judicial decree, and those maddening excise taxes that make Israelis pay four times what anyone in the West pays for their car and their fuel.

Does anyone know the number for the Justice League?


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