Budget Changes Worth NIS 15 Billion Approved in Just 75 Minutes

Knesset Finance Committee approves thousands of changes to two-year budget, including funds for defense and early childhood education.

The Knesset Finance Committee approved some NIS 10-15 billion in changes to this year's budget yesterday, after discussing the matter for just 75 minutes.

The changes included an additional NIS 5.5 billion for defense and NIS 1.6 billion for implementing free preschool education from age 3.

The coalition passed the budget changes to the second year of the present two-year budget by managing to recruit Likud MKs who were not regular members of the committee to take other MKs' places temporarily and vote in favor. The vote was 10 MKs in favor and five opposed.

Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) reached an agreement with the Finance Ministry on the transfer of NIS 45 million in subsidies for water for the disabled and NIS 60 million for Holocaust survivors - before he allowed the committee to meet on the the budget.

The MKs approved thousands of changes on 320 pages, including increasing certain budget items and transfering funds. The committee did not discuss all the items, which were presented in two booklets given to committee members. One they received last week and the other just before the meeting yesterday - and MKs voted without being able to know what they were voting on.

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz ) asked for a revote, which was held half an hour later - and the committee approved the changes again. Gal-On and Shlomo Molla (Kadima ) asked to hold separate votes on certain issues, such as the funds for new childcare centers, so the opposition could vote in favor of certain sections, but Gafni refused and presented the entire package as a whole.

The Defense Ministry said they did not receive additional funds. All it received was permission to sign contracts regarding money that will be spent from future years' budgets, such as for the huge army training base complex to be built in the Negev.