Jerusalem: The Israeli Knesset narrowly approved the country’s budget for 2021 and is going to vote on the draft budget for the next year, marking the end of three and a half years of a political deadlock in Israel that saw successive governments fall before they could bring a plan to the Knesset.
Passing the budget was seen as a key test for the eight-party coalition led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Yamina right-wing political alliance, and alternate prime minister Yair Lapid, the head of Israel’s largest opposition party Yesh Atid. In case of a failure to approve the budget by a November 14 deadline, the Knesset would be dissolved, forcing new elections.
“After years of chaos — we created a government, overcame the [Covid-19] Delta variant and now, thank God, we passed a budget for Israel! Continuing forward at full strength,” prime minister Naftali Bennett wrote in a statement, as quoted by the Times of Israel.
As a result of the voting, which started on Wednesday and lasted all night, the parliament approved a $194 billion (609 billion shekel) spending plan for 2021, proposed by the government, and is to vote on a $183 billion (573 billion shekel) budget plan for 2022 later on Thursday, according to the Times of Israel.
Foreign Minister and alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter that “after a long night, we approved the 2021 budget in the Knesset and there is another long day ahead. Another budget for the next year.”
The coalition, formed following the 24th Knesset elections, was named the Block of Changes and is based on a minimum parliamentary majority – 61 parliamentary votes in the 120-seat Knesset. Under the coalition agreement, the new government will be headed by Bennett for about two years, after which Bennett will yield the helm to alternate Prime Minister Lapid.
Passage of the budget plan is expected to stabilize the ideologically diverse Bennet-Lapid coalition, made up of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties, as well as an Islamist faction.