Israel Passes 2015-2016 Budget in Late Night Vote

With slim coalition majority, budget passes 61-59 after lawmakers vote on 1,500 different pages of objections and reservations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MKs vote on 2015-2016 budget. November 19, 2015.
Emil Salman

Israel's Knesset has passed the 2015-2016 state budget 61-59 in a late night vote that began Wednesday but extended into the early hours of Thursday. The vote took place after the lawmakers voted on over 1,500 different pages of objections, covering over 30,000 specific reservations to the budget, which required over 420 different votes.

The vote was delayed by three hours after Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel mistakenly cast his ballot with the opposition, accidently breaking the government's slim majority of one. He took to twitter to apologize to lawmakers and Knesset employees for the error and subsequent delay it caused.

By law, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to pass the budget by Thursday or the government would fall. Although it has been parliamentary practice in Israel for the past 30 years for the Economic Arrangements bill — supplemental legislation that accompanies the budget — to be voted on first, the current government is taking no chances and the vote on the bill is still taking place to cancel the changes of an opposition filibuster that would cause the government to miss its deadline. The vote on the Economic Arrangements bill is expected to last until 9 A.M.

The 2015 budget was never passed last year because of the breakup of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which was followed by elections in March of this year and a new government with Netanyahu again at the helm. In the interim, the government has been functioning on a month-to-month budget based on 2014 spending provisions.

The bill provides for 383.8 billion shekels ($98.2 billion) in 2015 spending and 424.8 billion shekels ($108.6 billion) in 2016.