The Knesset approved the State Budget at second and third readings in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a 58-43 vote. Earlier, following a 15-hour parliamentary session, the Economic Arrangements Bill passed in its final reading with 56 MKs in favor and 38 opposed.
The Knesset began voting on the bills Monday afternoon, in what was planned to be a 24-hour marathon session.
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MKs were expected to vote on 4,700 objections on the budget, with the opposition insisting on a manual roll-call vote for almost every one to drag out the process as long as possible.
However, after 13 hours in the plenum, opposition parties agreed to withdraw the objections after reaching an agreement with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, according to which a special team of MKs from the coalition and opposition will review a controversial clause within the Electoral Reform Bill which calls to raise the electoral threshold from 2% to 4%. Such an increase would reduce the ability of small, fringe parties to win a place in parliament. If passed, the bill will likely force the Arab parties to unite before the next elections.
Under the deal, the bill will be brought to a first vote Wednesday, and electoral reform will not be brought to a final vote until November.
Netanyahu, Minister Shalom during session
Knesset members Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Dov Khenin (Hadash) spoke with Netanyahu Monday evening with the purpose of scaling back the bill, which they claim hurts democracy.
During the parliamentary session, Finance Minister Yair Lapid responded to criticism of the budget: "I want to have a budget that gives, gives and gives. Give to the center and the periphery, to young and old, to lower income tax to 2%, to eliminate VAT, to give every worker a car and every family a plane. Now that we're done with the fantasy world, let's get back to the real world, with a real budget that needs to be submitted by a real Knesset," he said.
Passing the time (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"This budget really deals with the question 'where is the money?' The first task that no one dared to approach was to close the NIS 35 billion ($9.74 billion) budget gap; a real ongoing structural deficit that exists in the real world, and not in the opposition's la-la land. In a world where you don't take care of that right now, it becomes NIS 65 billion ($18.1 billion) next year and over NIS 70 billion ($19.5 billion) the next," he said.
Photo: Gil Yohanan
"It is something real that happens in real life and the opposition decided to ignore. We had to decide what to do: Should we let the whole deal fall apart around us just so that no one would be angry with us? Leadership takes place in the real world and not the fantasy world."
Opposition member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said in response: "Fantasy world? Facebook world! That's the only thing you know." Eitan Cabel of Labor added: "It means you didn't understand the reality. Where did you live before, la-la land? When did you discover the light? When did you realize your campaign was nonsense?"
Opposition Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said in her speech that "Lapid protested and rode the wave of the protest to his elite office, and today he became the presenter of this bad budget." Turning to Lapid, she said: "You mocked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, you committed to doing the opposite from him. You also keep reminding us of the terrible legacy he left you."
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