Netanyahu hopes to pass 2019 budget quickly, but will have to mollify ministers
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Netanyahu hopes to pass 2019 budget quickly, but will have to mollify ministers

As government meets to approve spending for next year, economy minister estimates that 10 of 22 cabinet members oppose the proposed plan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Globes Business Conference, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, on January 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Globes Business Conference, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, on January 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Cabinet ministers met Thursday to debate the state budget for 2019 along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he wants to have the plan approved by the Knesset within two months.

Several cabinet members have already stated their opposition to the proposed budget, including Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, and Welfare Minister Haim Katz.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri boycotted the meeting in protest of proposed cuts to the Religious Affairs Ministry, helmed by his fellow Shas party member David Azoulay.

Total government expenditure in 2019 is planned to increase by just under 3.5 percent from NIS 460 billion ($134 billion) in 2018 to NIS 479 billion ($140 billion), with NIS 100 billion ($29 billion) being set aside to pay off debts.

Speaking earlier in the day at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu spoke highly of his joint efforts with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on the budget.

“From here I will go to the cabinet in order to pass the budget,” Netanyahu said.

“Today we will be passing the budget, and within two months we will bring it for a second and third reading in the Knesset,” he continued. “There is no social policy without a financial policy. You can’t separate the two.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at a special cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 11, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL/Flash90)

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz was upbeat about the initial plan, saying before the meeting that “passing the budget is always a festive event. As far as the energy establishment is concerned it is an excellent budget.”

According to Channel 10 news, 12 ministries are facing cuts and some may be merged.

Economy Minister Eli Cohen told Channel 10 that as far as he knows, 10 of the 22 ministers in the cabinet oppose the budget.

But “based on previous experience, we know that when we get late into the night, they will reach a consensus,” he predicted.

Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen attends a press conference in Tel Aviv, on January 4, 2018. (Flash90)

On Wednesday, senior Foreign Ministry officials warned that Treasury plans to slash its funding will harm the country’s security and deal a fatal blow to Israel’s image and activity overseas.

Specifically, the cuts could halt ministry activity to counter Arab propaganda on social networks and will negatively affect overseas aid, officials told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

The Finance Ministry has said that Netanyahu, who is also the foreign minister, supports the proposals.

In a paper circulated to ministers on Monday in advance of Thursday’s government meeting and vote on the 2019 state budget, the Finance Ministry proposed eliminating 140 out of 686 posts at the ministry’s headquarters in Jerusalem and closing 22 out of 103 Israeli missions oversees over the next three years, transferring their work to regional offices.

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