With 62 in favor and 34 against, the Knesset approved the state budget for 2011 after midnight Monday. The Arrangements Law, which complements the budget, passed by a similar vote, 61 to 34. Both laws passed in the first readings, and require another vote to go into effect.
All members of the coalition voted in favor of the budget except for six MKs from Labor, who absented themselves from the plenum in order to protest the inclusion of 111 million shekels for stipends that will be paid to 'kollel' yeshiva students (who are known in Hebrew as 'avrechim').
The budget and Arrangements Law now go to the Knesset's Finance Committee, which is to prepare them for the second and third readings.
The vote on the budget was accompanied by much heckling from Kadima, with much of the main opposition party's contempt aimed at Labor, which vies for the same leftist voter niche as Kadima.
The inclusion of the 111 million shekels for avrechim stipends followed a heated public debate in which hareidi-religious politicians threatened to bolt the coalition if the state funding for 'kollel' students was not granted, and secular politicians demanded that similar stipends be given to students at universities and colleges. United Torah Judaism proposed a law dubbed the “Avrechim Law” that would have mandated the allocation of the funds, as a way of circumventing a High Court decision that opposed the “discriminatory” funding.
After the vote, a Kadima statement announced that “the mask has been torn off the faces of those who promised in their own voices, over every podium, not to lend a hand to the 'Avrechim Law' but gave their vote for the budget that includes that law.” Kadima singled out Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud), part of Labor and Israel Our Home, which voted in favor of the law and “proved that they have no backbone and their words lack value.”
"In the morning, they spoke in favor of the students, and in the evening they voted for the avrechim,” Kadima charged. They are “not worthy of leading [the country],” the 28-member faction stated.