Knesset Passes Contentious Budget, After Netanyahu Reaches Deal With Opposition

Fifty-two MKs launched an 18-hour filibuster to prevent passage of the budget law and two controversial bills.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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The Knesset approved the budget late Monday night following 18 hours of filibuster efforts, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a compromise with opposition parties, which had launched an unprecedented effort to keep it from passing. The Economic Arrangement Law was also passed earlier Monday.

As part of the compromise, a vote on the contentious governability law - which would make it harder to topple the the government - has been postponed.

Opposition parties launched their campaign earlier Monday to derail both the budget and the efforts to change the system of government, by systematically demanding a roll-call vote on each of the thousands of objections that have been filed against the budget.

Because each roll-call vote takes about 15 minutes, the MKs are able debate only four objections an hour – and the opposition parties have filed 4,700 objections.

This was liable to take the vote on the budget, which was meant to end by midday Tuesday, past the midnight deadline for the budget’s passage. In theory, if the budget were not to pass, the government falls and new elections must be called.

“We will not allow the budget of decrees to pass,” the opposition MKs said earlier Monday, in a joint statement. “Our demand is simple – on every meaningful clause in the budget we will demand a roll-call vote. Every MK that is prepared to participate in the destruction of Israeli society will have to declare this personally, in his own voice.”

Opposition sources told Haaretz that the budget was not the only target.

They said the only way this bottleneck would be eased and the usual round of budget voting resumed would be if the government commits not to bring either of two controversial pieces of legislation - the so-called governability law and the bill to turn the Referendum Law into a basic law - for a first reading on Wednesday, the last day before the Knesset’s summer recess.

The mechanism set up by the 52 opposition MKs automatically signs 20 of them to an official request for a roll-call vote on each of the major clauses in the bill – a procedure that obligates Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz to conduct a roll-call vote each time.

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MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash).Credit: Oren Nahshon
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Communications Minister Gilad Erdan.Credit: Oren Nahshon
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MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi).Credit: Oren Nahshon

Over the past several weeks, the coalition and opposition had come to an agreement that the budget votes that began Monday morning would continue until late night and resume Tuesday morning so that they would conclude by around noon today.

But the opposition claims that the coalition violated their understandings by seeking a vote on the two bills before the Knesset adjourns for the summer.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Finance Minister Yair] Lapid are determined to crush Israeli society for the benefit of the tycoons and the power brokers, while [Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor] Lieberman is determined to underhandedly steal the system of government to benefit his own narrow political interests,” the opposition statement said. “Faced by these attempts we, the members of the opposition, plan to be a protective barrier defending the citizens of Israel.”

“The opposition is united and is conducting a battle the likes of which have not been seen in the Knesset for years,” said Labor MK Merav Michaeli. “For months we have been fighting against the harsh budget decrees and we will continue to combat the attempts of the Netanyahu-Lapid government to damage Israeli society on all fronts."

Hadash MK Dov Khenin urged the Knesset to “oppose the unprecedented power play undertaken by the Netanyahu-Lapid-Lieberman government. This is a combination of an attempt to crush Israeli society with a cruel budget along with an attempt to destroy Israeli democracy by rushing through a string of unprecedented anti-democratic laws.”

“If necessary, we will sit here for days until the budget is defeated,” warned Meretz MK Michal Rozin.

“The entire opposition, Jews and Arabs, stand together in telling the government: enough!” declared Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh.

“Finance Minister Lapid deceived the public, and is acting contrary to promises he made to his voters,” charge Labor MK Miki Rosenthal .”This is a budget which favors a few wealthy capitalists but is bad for most of the public.”

Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky, right, sitting next to Finance Minister Yair Lapid. Credit: Michal Fattal