As Israelis closely followed the political furor Tuesday night over the police decision to recommend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted in a pair of corruption cases, the Knesset quietly passed the the 2019 budget in its first reading.
The budget, which passed by 60 votes to 50, will now head to the Finance Committee for approval, after which it will come up for its second and third Knesset votes before it can become law. Netanyahu hailed the successful first reading, and vowed his government “will continue to work for the interests of the state for a long time.”
This year’s budget will stand at NIS 397.4 billion ($112 billion). Among its outlays are NIS 60 billion for education, NIS 38 billion for health, NIS 13 for welfare and Holocaust survivors, as well as NIS 68 billion for security.
The Finance Ministry said the budget deficit in 2019 will stand at 2.9 percent of gross domestic product.
If passed, the budget would be the current government’s fifth to become law since the coalition was formed in 2015, a rarity in Israel’s political system that seldom sees government’s serve out the entirety of their five-year terms.
“This is an unprecedented achievement for the government, Knesset and Israeli economy,” said Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, head of the Kulanu party. “This signals to the world the stability and steadfastness of the Israeli economy.”
Kahlon’s efforts to pass the budget have reportedly been part of a bid to provide the government with stability and ensure it serves out the end of its full term, which it completes next year.
According to a Hadashot TV news report last month, Kahlon is intent on remaining finance minister for the duration of the term and had decided he would not resign if, as turned out to be the case, police recommended Netanyahu be indicted in a pair of corruption cases.
Netanyahu dismissed the police’s recommendation he be indicted for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust as “unfounded” and “outrageous,” proclaiming his innocence and saying he would continue to lead Israel for years to come.