David Levy Resigns From Govt.; Labor to Vote Against Budget

Yossi Verter
Ha'aretz Correspondent
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Yossi Verter
Ha'aretz Correspondent

Gesher chairman David Levy resigned Sunday from the government, in protest at the treasury's planned cuts to the 2003 state budget, and the exclusion of the cabinet from the decision-making process.

In a strongly-worded letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Levy - a minister without portfolio in the coalition government - said that, "the proposal put forward in recent days, which has earned your support, shows a profound lack of awareness of the distress of thousands of families in Israel, and condemns them to a life of abject poverty and loss of personal and civil dignity. The proposal not only contains gross injustice and hard-heartedness, it is also shortsighted regarding the devastating results its is sure to have."

The treasury's plan also came in for harsh criticism among Labor Party ministers, who decided Sunday to vote against the treasury's proposals for the 2003 state budget at Tuesday's cabinet meeting, if there are not significant changes to the proposed cuts.

The ministers were careful, however, not to create a coalition crisis by threatening to remove the party from the government. The ministers decided to close rank, to refrain from negotiating separately with Finance Minister Silvan Shalom and to vote en masse against the proposed budget.

Labor Party chairman Benjamin Ben-Eliezer gave strict instructions for the wording of the ministers' decision not to be released to the press. According to sources close to Ben-Eliezer, he does not want to wage his war against the treasury's proposals "via the media."

In an announcement released at the end of the meeting, which was held at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters, the ministers and deputy ministers said that they had concluded that the budget was "bad, harming the interests of IDF soldiers and people struggling daily to make a living. This is a political budget," the statement went on, "and not a national budget."

The statement also said that the process of formulating a budget is a long one, and that Labor ministers would try to change the current proposal.

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