The Knesset plenum voted Wednesday in a first reading to approve a bill to raise the minimum wage to NIS 40 ($12) per hour.
The bill, one of three that passed, was approved in a vote of 23 to 4. Most of the plenum’s 120 members were not present, having either left the hall or not having bothered to show up in the first place.
The government coalition had worked to block the law. Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Labor MK Efrat Rayten had reportedly reached an agreement to raise the minimum wage as part of the effort to improve worker rights.
However, after the vote Liberman told Israel’s Channel 12 News that he is halting all discussions on the 2023 state budget and vowed there would be no raise to the minimum wage.
“Raising the minimum wage is pure populism,” Liberman said. “Everyone needs to be responsible for their actions. We will act in accordance with economic common sense. Right now we are putting off the budget discussions and putting things back in order. The budget I pass will be professional, without populism.”
Infighting among members of the coalition prior to the vote led to a compromise in which coalition party members walked out as lawmakers cast their ballots, thus allowing the measure to pass. Labor party lawmakers who supported the bill from within the coalition also exited the plenum along with most of their colleagues.
However, coalition member Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi remained in the plenum and voted in favor of the bill, as did all members of Ra’am (United Arab List) except chairman Mansour Abbas.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett remained to vote against the bill, along with Yesh Atid MK Boaz Toporovsky, New Hope MK Michal Shir Segman and Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg.