It was important that the government approved the 2009 budget, considering the political and economic climate in Israel. It is one of the last decisions of Ehud Olmert's government, and it was a correct one.
This budget sustains the policies guiding the budgets in recent years. The alternatives to approving it, such as delaying or substantially changing it (as some ministers wanted to do) - or even rejecting it outright - would have damaged the economy.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and budgets director Ram Belinkov did the right thing by insisting that the budget not be increased beyond a certain point; that its goals not be changed; and that the vote shouldn't wait. The last-minute tweaks to assure a majority in cabinet were minor compared with the late-date changes of previous years.
It is true that this budget, which passed cabinet yesterday, may not get through the Knesset before year-end. Elections loom, for one thing. Yet Bar-On was right to insist that the cabinet address the issue in August, which is the usual time. He wants the budget to provide a benchmark for the new government that arises. Having an approved budget for 2009 in place will stop the Knesset members from wreaking havoc with private-member bills to curry favor.
Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel and economic adviser to the government, wasn't there at the budget debate, the most important meeting on economics that the cabinet has had. He was abroad.
As bewildering is the conduct of two of Israel's top ministers, both former chiefs of staff and both of whom consider themselves future prime ministers as well - Labor leader and defense minister Ehud Barak, and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz. In recent years both have been behaving irresponsibly, professing populist sentiments regarding spending. Both demand more and more money for the defense budget. The sky's the limit. They also demand more money for education, welfare, healthcare - billions upon billions, as though they don't understand that the state's resources are limited.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now