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Lapid pays settlers and religious for budget support

$143.2 million was allocated to ministries so that the minister’s party would support the budget.

Yair Lapid 500
/Lilach Weissman and Amiram Barkat/

Minutes of the cabinet meeting before the Sukkot holiday obtained by “Globes” show that in return for supporting the 2015 budget proposals, Minister of Finance Yair Lapid promised a one-time $143.2 million allocation distributed among several ministries for various and sundry purposes.

The minutes show why Jewish Home Party chairman and Minister of Economy MK Naftali Bennett could afford his absence from the cabinet meeting for approving the budget by traveling to the US, and why, in contrast to his usual practice, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky did not try to force the government to make concessions before the budget was approved. The Jewish Home Knesset faction received hundreds of millions of shekels for various purposes, at the demand of the Ministers responsible for religious services, senior citizens, and the settlement department.

For example, following an agreement with Jewish Home Party, the Finance Ministry allocated $6.75  million for various activities involving the shmitta year (during which the land should lie fallow under Jewish religious law) and various religious services, $6.75  million for activities aimed at strengthening Jewish identity and promoting dialogue in Israel society and among the Jewish people,  $8.1million for local authorities in Judea and Samaria, $10.8 million for rural development and construction, $10.8 million for easing the burden of parents having to pay high school tuition, $1.35 million for strengthening Jerusalem, $33.7 million for ventures and various funding for Zionism, education, settlement, and democracy, and support for social activities and senior citizens.

These budget decisions were not included in the original budget proposal; they were added following political agreements between the parties. The Ministry of the Negev and the Galilee, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Ministries of Agriculture, “Education, Absorption, and the Interior also received money in this framework.

The Finance Ministry said that it had been decided to formalize reporting of the data relating to these budgets in the context of greater transparency in the state budget.

Finance Ministry sources said that most of the additional allocations agreed to in the cabinet meeting were already given to the ministries in 2014, and were, of course, also called “one-time” allocations then. According to the sources, some of these amounts were taken into account in preparing the state budget, so that they will not cause a breach in the budget framework. What is new this year is that the Finance Ministry collected all these amounts into an orderly list read by the Finance Minister at the end of the cabinet meeting, while $10.8 million for the Ministry of Justice was added to the list at the last minute for legal representation of women and minor crime victims, and for promotion of democracy and combating racism.

In addition to the special allocations to the ministries, several items were removed from the budget proposal, including increasing the fee for issuing a passport, and cuts in government programs. Removal of these items reduces the government’s expected revenues by $18.9  million and increases its spending by $18.9 -$32.4  million. The Finance Ministry Budget Department regards budget approval as a significant achievement, stating the prolonged work with the government ministries over the past two months facilitated approval of the budget with almost no changes, without late-night shenanigans.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com

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