Lieberman Signals Support for 2015 Budget, Even After Split With Netanyahu

But after his break with Likud, Knesset sources express skepticism.

Zvi Zrahiya
Zvi Zrahiya
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Avigdor Lieberman on July 7, 2014, at a press conference announcing an end to the partnership between his Yisrael Beiteinu party and Likud.
Avigdor Lieberman on July 7, 2014, at a press conference announcing an end to the partnership between his Yisrael Beiteinu party and Likud.Credit: Michal Fattal
Zvi Zrahiya
Zvi Zrahiya

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman signaled in an interview with TheMarker on Monday that his Yisrael Beiteinu party would support the 2015 state budget even though it is withdrawing from the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu faction.

“We’re close to an agreement with the treasury budget division on the issue of budgets for the ministries headed by Yisrael Beiteinu ministers,” Lieberman said.

Yisrael Beiteinu controls the public security, tourism, agriculture and immigrant absorption ministries.

In his announcement Monday that he is ending his partnership with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, Lieberman said his party would continue to remain a loyal member of the governing coalition, but would simply be functioning as an independent Knesset faction.

Despite Lieberman’s supportive comments, Knesset sources suggested that Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid will have to work harder now to secure passage of next year’s budget, first in the cabinet and then in the Knesset.

The budget-making process for 2015 has gotten off to a late start, with Netanyahu and Lapid yet to hold initial talks between themselves. Nevertheless, a cabinet vote is expected in the coming weeks, followed by the first of three votes needed to approve the budget by the Knesset in October. After that first vote, the budget will go to the Knesset Finance Committee for deliberations.

It remains unclear how Yisrael Beiteinu will vote on the budget and the accompanying Economic Arrangements Bill in committee in December. Despite the prevailing assumption at the moment that Lieberman genuinely does not want to force early elections, his party is still expected to demand changes to the budget in return for its support, making passage of the spending package more difficult for Netanyahu and Lapid.

Yisrael Beiteinu has 11 Knesset members, enough to mean that if Lieberman withholds his support, Netanyahu and Lapid may not have enough votes to get the budget passed in the Knesset.

In addition, Yisrael Beiteinu has two members on the Knesset Finance Committee, which will vote on the budget prior to the two final votes by the full parliament. The two committee members, MKs Robert Ilatov and Hamad Amar, also have a measure of influence over the approval of Lapid’s proposals.

Ilatov told TheMarker on Monday he would maintain coalition discipline. “We are loyal members of the coalition and we don’t intend to break the rules of the game while we’re moving,” he said.

Knesset sources have said, however, that ties between Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud have grown increasingly stained and could quickly deteriorate further in the event of a policy disagreement, over the defense budget, for example.

Of the 17 members of the Finance Committee, 11, including Yisrael Beiteinu’s two, are members of the governing coalition. If those two shift their support to the opposition, the coalition will have just a one-vote majority in the Finance Committee. This further compounds another challenge the coalition faces in committee: Gila Gamliel, the Likud MK who heads the coalition MKs in the committee, is a critic of Lapid.

In the past, the committee as currently constituted has made major changes to the budget, eliminating some austerity measures, with the support of MKs from Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi and Hatnuah. The MKs are expected to seek to make changes to the 2015 budget as well.

Political sources said Monday that although it is not in Lieberman’s interest to break up the coalition, he already has his eye on the next election and wants the budget to ease his party’s path at the polls.

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