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Rebel Yamina MK says won’t vote for budget, as both sides try to woo abstentions

Chikli claims party hasn’t sought his backing; opposition reportedly using bill for new hospital to convince Ra’am MK not to vote for budget; coalition wants Joint List to abstain

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yamina MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli said Saturday that he would not vote with the coalition in favor of the budget, potentially jeopardizing the survival of the government.

“I do not do the mathematics of self-interest, and there is no deal by which I will support the budget,” Chikli told Channel 12 news. He also said that his party had not tried to discuss the budget with him, and has not attempted to gain his support.

The diverse composition of the government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — made up of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties — is complicating the effort to pass a budget, with the opposition of a single lawmaker theoretically able to bring down the wafer-thin coalition.

The budget bill for 2021 passed its first reading in September by a 59-54 vote, with the 2022 budget getting the go-ahead with a vote of 59 to 53. The coalition must get the budget through its second and third readings by November 14, but is hoping to do so a few days ahead of that deadline if possible.

Chikli claimed, with no evidence, that the money set aside in the budget for projects in the Arab community would instead be used for “radicalization.”

“It’s a very dangerous budget, NIS 30 billion is going to be managed by the Ra’am party and [its leader] Mansour Abbas, and that is a very bad thing,” he said, referring to the coalition member.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, and Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas, seated, at the swearing in of the new Israeli government, in the Knesset on June 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Government officials have vowed to advance nearly NIS 35 billion ($10.3 billion) in total funding for the Arab community over the next five years in an attempt to compensate for decades of state neglect in Arab cities and to deal with skyrocketing crime.

Meanwhile, Channel 12 reported that the opposition Joint List party is targeting Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim and attempting to convince him not to vote for the budget, and thus topple the government. The report noted that Ghanaim has been absent from a number of recent key votes.

According to the report, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh met with Ghanaim on Saturday and proposed to him that a bill would be submitted to establish a hospital in Sakhnin, the city of which the Ra’am MK was previously mayor.

The report noted that the Joint List was supported in its efforts on a “symbolic and superficial” level by Likud, but that Benjamin Netanyahu’s party would only lend its backing to the legislation at the preliminary stages.

The coalition has also been trying to gain the support of the Joint List so that it can pass the budget.

Channel 12 reported that the government is trying to convince the Joint List’s Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi to absent themselves from the budget vote or to abstain from it.

Knesset Members Osama Saadi (R) and Ahmad Tibi (L) attend a Knesset committee meeting on September 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week the Knesset Finance Committee advanced the new coalition’s plan to fund the government for the years 2021 and 2022 after a heated, six-hour session that saw tens of millions of shekels allocated at the request of the opposition.

The budget will now be brought to the Knesset floor for a vote on its second and third readings. It will need to pass a final vote by November 14 if snap elections are to be averted.

The last time a coalition managed to pass a budget was in March 2018. Failure to do so was what brought down the previous government late last year.

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