Israel Expected to Cut Budget to Cover Amona Outpost’s Evacuation

Opposition legislator Shelly Yacimovich says the across-the-board move would ‘make a mockery of any socially minded achievements.’

Moshe Kahlon and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Marc Israel Sellem

The cabinet is expected to cut billions of shekels from the 2017-18 budget in part to cover the cost of the evacuation of the illegal outpost Amona due later this month.

The weekly cabinet meeting did not take place Sunday morning to give the Finance Ministry’s budget division time to prepare the proposal, which would also put money aside to help get the new public broadcasting corporation up and running.

The cuts were not on the cabinet’s agenda but arose after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and other top officials at the ministry.

The cost includes construction of new homes for Amona’s residents being evicted. The High Court of Justice has ordered the West Bank outpost evacuated by December 25 because it sits on privately owned Palestinian land.

The 2017-18 budget is due to receive final approval in the Knesset by the end of this month. It is not clear if the decision on cuts will include specific provisions beyond an across-the-board cut at all government ministries. The reduction is expected to be between 1.25 percent and 2 percent.

The Finance Ministry is expected to say that the move is needed to meet deficit-reduction provisions that are required by law in light of expenses that arose since the budget was crafted.

Young Israeli settlers gather in the settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank, Dec. 9, 2016.
Menahem Kahana/AFP

Opposition MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) called on the cabinet to vote against the move.

“An across-the-board cut of about 2 billion shekels [$519 million] together with 2 billion shekels that have already been cut make a mockery of any socially minded achievements, whether big or small,” she said. “An across-the-board cut is a cruel, cowardly and indiscriminate cut that takes an ax to all the ministries’ budgets.”

The cuts mean “less for social welfare, less for education, less for public security, less and less and less for citizens,” she said. “And all of this because of the mismanagement by Finance Minister Kahlon, who doesn’t know how to handle the state budget.”