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Ministers Strongly Oppose 'Scandalous' Budget Cut

Ministers from all sides pledge to oppose long-term cut to fund Gaza operation; calls to postpone as materials received last minute.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 8/31/2014, 11:58 AM

Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with heads of southern communities
Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with heads of southern communities
Flash 90

Tensions are boiling over ahead of a ministerial vote Sunday morning on whether or not to ratify a 1.9 billion shekel (roughly $531 million) budget cut, namely 2% of the budget, to fund Operation Protective Edge and provide a 1.3 billion shekel five-year-plan to develop hard-hit Sderot and the Gaza Belt communities.

Ministers from left to right have been pouring criticism on the budget cut and vowing to oppose it.

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) lambasted the plan, saying "I intend to oppose it. The need to cover the security expenses of Operation Protective Edge is a one-time need. There should be a one-time budget transfer, and not a wide fixed cut starting on the basis of ministry budgets from here on."

"I won't give a hand to this extended harming of the government's functioning and the services to citizens," added Ariel in a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid).

The Ministry of Education is to be hardest hit by the cuts, taking a 480 million shekel ($134 million) blow. Transportation development will be cut by 243 million shekels, and higher education by 175 million shekels; the Ministry of Health is also to take a 43 million shekel cut.

Joining in the condemnation was Environment Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua), who lives in Sderot and termed the cut "a direct blow to the poorer social layer, the periphery and residents of the south, who won't be able to pay for basic services of education, health and welfare."

"I'm for raising the taxes for those with high salaries and against cutting the budget on such necessary services to citizens of Israel," added Peretz.

While Peretz praised the influx of funds to Sderot and the Gaza Belt, he added "you can't on the one hand talk about embracing the residents and their firm stance in the days of war, and on the other hand demand they pay the price."

Postpone the vote

In light of the wide opposition to the budget cuts, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel requested from the Cabinet Secretary to postpone the debate and vote.

Nahi Eyal, director of the Legal Forum for Israel, acknowledged "the importance of the issue and its urgency, and the need to hold a pertinent and serious debate."

However, he added "government ministers received the materials for the discussion an hour before Shabbat began (last Friday evening), in a way that does not enable them to deeply study the discussed issue and its implications."

Taking from the poor

Another minister opposing the budget cuts was Welfare Minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid), who said he would oppose a cut on his ministry beyond an immediate one-time cut "which unfortunately cannot be avoided."

Cohen praised his own ministry as being "the last hope of hundreds of thousands of families, who are a step away from a financial and emotional collapse. Who will we take from, those who don't have anything to spread on their children's sandwiches for school?"

According to Shas Chairman MK Aryeh Deri, the budget cuts are a "scandal and insolence on the part of the Israeli government."

Deri added "instead of cutting the tax benefits to the wealthy and the huge budgets of the upper social layer, the government of the wealthy chose to take from the second Israel, those whose voices are not heard."