The 19th Knesset's first summer session on Monday turned into a barbed verbal bout between Finance Minister Yair Lapid and haredi Knesset members.
Answering haredi criticism of the impending budget cuts, Lapid cynically said: "I understand you're going through tough times. Weren't you sitting in the government which created the deficit? Where you on Mars? You were in every government, and you were costly partners."
Following the stormy debate, the Knesset rejected six no-confidence motions, with 43 voting in favor and 63 against.
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To MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), who mentioned the drop in enlistment rates in his speech before Lapid's turn at the podium, the finance minister responded: "You were impudent enough to come here and say the main issue in Israel is the security issue and that you're worried over the drop in the enlistment rate.
Lapid and Aryeh Deri (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"You are worried? I want to tell you, sir – don't worry yourself. This government will take care that. There'll be plenty of new recruits right out of your backyard."
As his speech progressed, Lapid was constantly heckled by the apoplectic haredi MKs, to which he responded in kind.
To a heckling Moshe Gafni, A United Torah Judaism MK, Lapid responded: "We're tired of taking your orders. Israel doesn't belong to you."
The pointed exchange continued when Lapid reminded the haredi MKs of parental responsibilities.
"Our duty is to make sure no child goes hungry," Lapid said. "But I want to remind you of one thing: The body that's responsible for providing for children is called 'their parents.' When you bring a child to this world, MK Porush, you're the first person responsible for him."
Lapid was interrupted by MK Yisrael Eichler, who shouted: "We'll not let you take the money from the children."
Lapid answered: "MK Eichler, I heard you called for a tax rebellion. What will you threaten next, that haredim will not enlist? What are you talking about?"
Lapid's Facebook habits also came under fire, when a haredi MK criticized him for posting online on the Sabbath. Lapid replied: "I post on Shabbat because I don't keep the Sabbath. I'm not telling you what to do on the Sabbath and you won't tell me."
Lapid and Meretz Chairwoman Gal-On (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
To Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, who condemned the lack of progress in the peace process, Lapid replied: "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for 150 years. I'm sorry we didn't solve it on our first week in office."
Lapid's plan: Cutting NIS 18 billion
The finance minister presented the new budget plan earlier on Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The plan includes an NIS 18 billion (about $5 billion) cut in government spending, with the main brunt carried by the defense establishment, the children stipends, state employees' salaries and a freeze on infrastructure projects.
In addition, the plan contains a 1% raise of the VAT and another 1% raise for incomes above NIS 8,881 ($2,449).
Earlier, Lapid said during his party's meeting that "We'll not hide behind the deficit but quite the opposite; we'll view it as an opportunity to change priorities for the State of Israel."
Lapid added: "Our heart goes out to anyone who can't make ends meet, but empathy can't replace policy. In two years every Israeli will feel the change, feel that he lives in a fair state which treats his money with respect."
Conversely, Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich commented on Yair Lapid's budget cuts: "Lapid returned with Benjamin Netanyahu's plan, including a five billion shekel ($1.3B) tax raise. It's going to be an impossible burden to carry, certainly for miserable Riki from Hadera, and definitely for the poor."
MK Porush, of United Torah Judaism, slammed the government's policy and Lapid in his Knesset speech: "I heard he's going to hit Israel with unbearable economic measures.
"This is a government which is built on hate alone. The highest of this government's achievements is exclusion of the haredim."
Porush jibed: "Ask Yair Lapid what's the height of his achievements, and for him it's a good post on Facebook."
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