Following all-night marathon negotiations, cabinet ministers on Friday morning unanimously approved a 2019 state budget of NIS 397.3 billion ($116.1 billion), which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised would ensure the political stability the government needed to survive until the end of its term late next year.
In a statement, Netanyahu praised the budget as “excellent,” saying it “reflects our consistent and responsible policies: A budget that, on one hand, maintains growth and economic strength, and on the other hand, takes care of the social needs of all Israeli citizens.
“Our government will continue to work together for the benefit of the State of Israel for a long time — until the end of its term,” he added.
The new budget includes many social reforms, including increased support for working families, an agreement with labor unions on slightly shortening the work week and a longer school year that cuts about 10 days off mandatory vacations. It also includes provisions that seek to increase competition in the television market; new regulations that make it easier for customers to switch banks; attempts to tackle the high costs of private surgery; and new rules on cash transactions as part of the government’s long-term plan to reduce the use of cash in the Israeli economy.
“The 2019 budget is a social budget focused on the growth of the Israeli economy and the strengthening of the economy,” said Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu). “A finance minister’s job… is to grow the economy and channel the fruits of growth to the right places and to populations that have been forgotten for too many years. This budget continues [our] social revolution.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that the budget prioritizes education.
“School vacations will be shortened by 10 days; 5,100 kindergartens will get a second assistant; class size in grades 4-6 will shrink; and improvements in mathematics, science and English will continue,” he said.
The Defense Ministry, long Israel’s largest single budget expenditure, will receive NIS 63 billion ($18.4 billion), an increase of 37 percent since 2014, followed by the Education Ministry at NIS 60 billion ($17.5 billion) — a 38% increase — and the Health Ministry at NIS 38 billion ($11.1 billion), a 60% increase.