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Israel’s State Budget is in Jeopardy and so Is Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu press conference – Haim Zach (GPO) May 2023

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu is in danger of losing his majority in the Knesset should he fail to pass the new state budget. Several leaders of parties in his coalition government – both ultra-orthodox and right-wing parties – have threatened to vote against the budget if their new demands are not met. Under Israeli law, if a budget does not get passed by a certain date the government falls, the Knesset must be dissolved and new elections are held.

At his government’s weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu declared, “We have to pass a budget.”

So, what is the problem here?

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Minister for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Yitzhak Wasserlauf – a member of the right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) Party – said that he party wants hundreds of millions of Shekels added to his department’s budget. And he is not happy that fellow minister Orit Strook form the Religious Zionist Party, whose leader Bezalel Smotrich serves as Israel’s Minister of Finance, got more funding for her National Missions department.

“We agreed that the division between me and Minister Strrok would be equal – and they are not complying with the agreements,”Wasserlauf told Israeli radio. “I’m in favor of having proportions, it’s not an ego battle. I want to close the gap between myself and Minister Strook, so that there be an equal distribution [between their ministries].”

Another member of the Otzma Yehudit Party also criticized Minister Smotrich telling Israeli media, “The Minister of Finance opened a private fund for Minister Strock. I won’t betray the trust of those who elected me, if we don’t get anything – I won’t vote for the budget.”

And as if that is not enough of a headache for Netanyahu, Yitzhak Goldknopf, who leads the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael faction of the Ahkenazic ultra-orthodox UTJ Party, is now demanding even more funding for his community. Apparently he is not satisfied with the absurdly high record amount of $133 billion that they got in the budget for 2023, and the $141 billion for 2024.

Benjamin Netanyahu is in no position these days to see his government fall and new elections held. This is because all political polls show his Likud Party losing as many as ten seats and the being replaced as the largest party in the Knesset by former Minister Defense Benny Gantz’s State Party. The polls also show the opposition easily getting a majority of more than 60 seats in the Knesset.

But neither can his coalition partners take the chance that they will be out of power should new elections be held. So, most observers say that those making last minute demands of the budget are merely posturing and will settle for much less.

Even with a bump in the polls from the recent “Operation Sword and Arrow” conducted a few weeks ago against the Islamic Jihad Terrorist organization in Gaza, Polls still show Benjamin Netanyahu losing his majority.

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