FOn Friday morning at five thirty, when the Knesset had passed the budget for the coming year and thus the continued existence of the coalition in the longer term, the Likud MPs left the plenary as one. Israel’s largest opposition party refused to attend the vote results. Knesset President Miki Levi spoke of disrespect. The frustration ran deep in the party of the replaced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It had been robbed of its most important means to replace the government of Naftali Bennett and the “alternating Prime Minister” Jair Lapid prematurely.
The budget vote was again tight with 59 to 56 votes, as was the case on Thursday when the budget for the current year was approved by the coalition with 61 to 59 votes. If no budget had been passed by November 14th, the Knesset would have been dissolved and there would have been a new election by law. Opposition leader Netanyahu, who continues to lead in polls as party leader, was looking for a budget failure.
Transitional budgets based on old numbers
Even as head of government, Netanyahu had used the lever of the missed budget to provoke new elections: for example, he had prevented a rotation in the office of prime minister agreed in the coalition agreement, which would have made former coalition partner Benny Gantz head of government. Israel has had no proper budget since March 2018. Until recently, the authorities had to work with constitutionally questionable transitional budgets based on old figures. After the budgets were passed, Bennett announced that Israel had been brought back on track. His government will have around 120 billion euros at its disposal in 2021; According to Kanal Dreizehn, around 16 billion euros of this will go to defense and 19 billion euros to education.
The loser is Netanyahu, who sees the budget dwindling his chances of overthrowing the government and is now under pressure within the party to be replaced at the head of the Likud. “The Netanyahu era is over,” said his former employee and current construction minister of the New Hope party, Zeev Elkin.
The winner is not only Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose government is now difficult to topple from outside. But above all the foreign minister and “alternating prime minister” Jair Lapid, who will either become head of government in August 2023, or, should the coalition break, be appointed as acting prime minister according to the contract. With the adoption of the 2022 budget, Lapid ensured this rotation.
No uniform Palestine policy
The price of this success of the coalition, which consists of eight parties of the most varied of character, was that the government had largely left aside controversial policy areas during its first 150 days. There is no uniform Palestine policy, for example. Defense Minister Gantz had declared several prominent Palestinian human rights organizations to be terrorist organizations without publicly presented valid evidence. Meanwhile, Building Minister Elkin approved new Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank without a consensual decision.
In contrast, however, the coalition initiated several measures that benefit the Palestinian-Israeli population in the heartland. This concerns several billion shekels for the fight against the rampant crime in the “Arab sector” of Israel and for education and construction measures. In particular, the Bedouin population in the south of Israel, who form an important constituency of the ruling Islamic-conservative Raam party, can expect building permits and electricity connections in villages that have not yet been recognized by the authorities. In this way, Lapid in particular secured the votes of the Arab coalition partner. The foreign minister himself drove to Bedouin villages before the budget debate. In return, Lapid, the key player behind the coalition, can now wait more calmly for his prime ministerial office.