The Knesset approved on Monday night the first reading of the state budget for the years 2013 and 2014.
58 Knesset members voted in favor of the budget, and 44 voted against. There were no abstentions. The budget will now be transferred to the Knesset’s Finance Committee and the other committees where it will be prepared for its second and third readings, which are expected by the end of the July.
The vote was preceded by a heated debate, during which Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) was slammed by members of the opposition over the budget, which includes measures such as an increase of 1.5 percentage points in personal income tax, one point in corporate tax and a one-point rise in VAT, together with a cut in family allowances.
One of those who attacked Lapid was MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), who told Lapid that his speech at the opening of the debate was “pathetic”.
Lapid hit back at the factions of the opposition, reminding opposition leader MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) that she had turned down an offer to be appointed Finance Minister herself.
"I remind you that you had the opportunity to sit here as Finance Minister,” Lapid told Yechimovich. “Being a leader means doing unpopular things, too. You ran away from responsibility because it is much easier to sit on the sidelines and criticize."
Lapid also attacked Shas and told its chairman MK Aryeh Deri, "You commemorated a culture of poverty, we’re simply saving these children from poverty. I've been Finance Minister for less than three months. You sat in the government for 30 years and did nothing.”
Members of the opposition, however, were not the only ones to voice objection to the budget, and several members of the coalition expressed their dissatisfaction as well.
MK Gila Gamliel (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu), the coalition coordinator at the Finance Committee, was harshly critical of some of the items listed in the budget and said the budget “lacks a vision.”
She added, "There is a budget here which chose the easy way. Do homework. Come with a vision and a real future."
Gamliel made clear earlier that the law in its current form cannot be allowed to pass, and that she will support making changes in it, when it reaches the committee.
MK Miri Regev (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu) attacked the budget as well, claiming that the “satiated” treasury officials, as she put it, wrote a budget which hurts the weaker sectors of Israeli society.
Regev added that while she would vote in favor of the budget in the first reading, she will certainly not do so in the second and third readings unless several measures are cancelled.
MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnua), who chairs the Knesset's Education Committee, indicated that the members of his committee will not be a rubber stamp when it comes to cuts that hurt education.