Kahlon Seeks Veto Over Budget Items on Coalition Pact

Kulanu negotiators raise concerns over promises to ultra-Orthodox parties.

Ilan Assayag

The coalition negotiating team of Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party is demanding that any agreement calling for spending must first be cleared through Kahlon, who is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s designated finance minister.

Kulanu aired its views late on Sunday after Netanyahu’s Likud party acceded to demands from the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, to increase the budget for child allowances by 2.6 billion shekels ($660 million) annually.

Kahlon campaigned on a socio-economic agenda, focused on bringing down the cost of housing and other expenses and stepping up government social spending.

“We asked to be given the tools to solve the housing crisis,” Kahlon said Sunday. “In the negotiations we sought the planning council [National Planning and Building Council] to plan housing and the Israel Lands Administration so we can free land for construction. We didn’t ask for anything else no portfolios and no ambassadorships.”

Likud also agreed to reverse some 500 million shekels worth of budget cutbacks to religious educational institutions and to exempt food now subject to government price controls from the 18% value-added tax, a move that would cost the government some 800 million shekels in lost revenue.

Kulanu, which won 10 Knesset seats in the March 17 election making it the biggest prospective junior partner in Netanyahu’s coalition, is still disputing who will chair the powerful Knesset Finance Committee. Likud has already promised the post to UTJ’s Moshe Gafni, but Kahlon wants to retain it for his party.

They are also fighting over whether Kahlon’s Finance Ministry will get control of the land planning agency, which is now in the Interior Ministry, a portfolio offered to Shas leader Arye Dery. However, sources said Monday that Kulanu would get the Housing and Construction Ministry as well as responsibility for the Israel Lands Administration.