The Knesset approved a first reading of the budget for 2017-2018 on Wednesday night, with a majority of 60 MKs supporting it and 51 voting against.
It will now pass on to the Knesset Finance Committee for review.
The 2017 budget stands at NIS 359.7 billion ($94.1 billion), and was set at NIS 376.7 billion ($98.8 billion) for 2018.
The two-year budget must clear the Knesset plenum in its second and third readings by the end of the year. If it fails to pass, new elections will be called.
The transition to a two-year budget was approved by the cabinet in August over fierce opposition criticism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has touted the measure as a means for increasing the stability of the government.
Addressing the plenum, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon listed what he said were some of the government’s economic achievements over the past year, including raising IDF soldiers’ wages and increasing the incomes of pensioners, single parents and Holocaust survivors. The economy, he said, has grown over the past two quarters, Israel’s import-to-export ratio is a source of “envy” in other countries, and unemployment is the lowest in years.
“We are taking advantage of the growth for the benefit of social budgets,” he noted. “We are campaigning against the high cost of living.”
MK Zehava Galon, leader of the opposition Meretz party, said that while her faction would not oppose a budget that addresses social issues, the current plan did not qualify as such.
“What has been brought to us at the moment is a budget we will need to vote against, to my regret,” she said. Rather than address the needs of weaker segments of society, the budget “reflects submission to three extortionate institutions: the security establishment, the settlement establishment, and the ultra-Orthodox establishment.”