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Final approval of 2022 budget delayed after coalition MK flubs vote

Labor’s Emilie Moatti apologizes for ending perfect run, blames error on lack of sleep after all-night session; Bennett: Israel ‘will enter a different era’ once 2022 budget passes

Labor MK Emilie Moatti walks with flowers at the Knesset on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Labor MK Emilie Moatti walks with flowers at the Knesset on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After the coalition appeared on track to approve the 2022 budget earlier than expected, the final vote was pushed back after a member of the coalition accidentally voted against one of the budget’s hundreds of clauses on Thursday evening. The 2021 budget had been passed early Thursday morning, averting the threat of early elections.

Labor MK Emilie Moatti mistakenly pressed the wrong button on a vote to approve funds for building classrooms, leading to a 59-59 tie and the measure’s defeat.

Moatti said she was sorry for the error, blaming it on “only getting two hours of sleep” after the all-night session that approved the 2021 budget at 5 a.m. She also apologized by handing out flowers to fellow coalition Knesset members.

The measure was the first of hundreds of votes relating to the budget that did not pass despite the coalition having only a single vote edge over the opposition.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu accidentally voted with the coalition several times during the marathon sessions, and party leaders had expressed worries over fatigue and mistakes bogging down the process, which kicked off Tuesday with lengthy speeches, followed by a seemingly endless stream of votes held since Wednesday afternoon.

Despite the delay, which set back the final plenum vote by several hours, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett promised that passing the NIS 573 billion ($183 billion) state budget for 2022 would be worth the overtime.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and colleagues, including coalition chair Irit Silman (back to camera), gather in the Knesset as the state budget for 2021 is approved, on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I know you’re tired, stay strong, the budget will pass,” he implored coalition lawmakers in a short statement from the Knesset.

“The moment that the budget passes, the State of Israel will enter a different era,” Bennett added. “The government is stable, and we know exactly where to lead the country.”

Due to Moatti’s flub, the coalition was forced bring that section of the budget to the Knesset Finance Committee for a fresh vote, before returning it to the plenum to be approved.

Though largely a technicality, that meeting itself produced fireworks when Likud MK Orly Levy-Abekasis was ejected by Yisrael Beytenu’s Alex Kushnir, the committee chairman. As ushers attempted to escort her away, Levy-Abekasis berated one of them, repeatedly pointing a finger in the woman’s face.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to reporters at the Knesset, on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Get your hands off me,” Levy-Abekasis told the usher, later named as Marina Metz. “You’re impertinent. Don’t touch me.”

MK Orly Levy-Abekasis (left) is removed from a Knesset committee discussion, November 4, 2021 (Knesset channel screenshot)

“You’re impertinent,” a Knesset member could be heard telling Levy-Abekasis as she eventually left the room.

According to the Ynet news site, Metz later broke out crying.

“She is not used to Knesset members talking and behaving in such a manner,” an unnamed person who was present told the website. “They know how to differentiate and don’t get mad at Knesset workers for doing their jobs. ”

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy denounced Levy-Abekasis’s conduct toward the usher as “rude, harmful and demeaning.”

“Knesset employees will not be the punching bags of Knesset members who lost control,” Levy said in a statement, adding that he apologized to Metz in person.

Levy-Abekasis, meanwhile, claimed Metz acted violently toward her, though a video did not appear to show any physical contact between the two.

“I never experienced violent behavior that intruded on my privacy like I experienced tonight,” she wrote on Facebook. “I really respect the Knesset ushers… but there is a way to remove Knesset members without acting violently. There is no other definition for strongly pressing on the ribs expect for violence and thuggery.”

“I am sorry if the usher was harmed,” Levy-Abekasis added.

The donnybrook came hours after the coalition managed to push through the budget for 2021 and later the Economic Arrangements Bill, which determines how funds will be disbursed. The coalition’s ability to navigate the drawn-out process, and the opposition’s withdrawal of most of its objections, had been heralded as a major success for Bennett’s unlikely ruling alliance of eight ideological disparate parties.

It was also seen as a rebuke of Netanyahu, who was unable to pass a new budget since 2018 amid a series of political deadlocks and had predicted that the coalition would be unable to effectively run the country given the competing ideologies at play.

Failure to pass a budget for 2021 by November 14 would have triggered new elections automatically, a threat that expired just after 5 a.m. Thursday with a 61-59 vote along party lines to approve the 2021 budget.

The coalition has until the end of March 2022 to approve the 2022 budget, though it is expected to do so by Friday morning after holding another all-night vote-a-thon.

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu (R) walks past Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during voting on the state budget, November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The NIS 609 billion ($194 billion) spending plan for 2021 was the first budget Israel has passed since 2018, due to a prolonged political deadlock that saw successive governments fall before they could bring a proposal to the Knesset.

Netanyahu is widely believed to have torpedoed the most recent budget, under his power-sharing government with Benny Gantz, in order to bring down that coalition and avoid passing the premiership on to him as had been agreed between the two as part of their deal.

That fight led directly to the collapse of the last government and the most recent election, the results of which saw Netanyahu ousted from office in June.

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