Prime Minister Sharon had been hoping to hold the budget vote next week, but it now appears that it will be pushed off until the last moment – March 30 or 31. At present, those who support the budget enjoy a slight advantage.
The budget is supported by some 27 of the 40 Likud MKs; 19 from Labor; 4-5 from United Torah Judaism (Meir Porush is a slight question mark); 5-6 of Meretz/Yachad (Yossi Sarid is a major question mark); and independent MKs Michael Nudelman and Yossi Paritzky.
Among those opposing the budget are the 13 Likud loyalists, those who oppose the disengagement/expulsion plan; 14 from Shinui; 12 from National Union and National Religious Party; 11 from Shas; and 6 Arab-party MKs.
This leaves the 3 MKs of Am Echad – Amir Peretz, Ilana Cohen and David Tal – who have different calculations regarding their respective votes. In addition, the 2 MKs of the Arab Raam party, Adbel Dehamshe and Taleb A-Sana, have been negotiating with the Likud regarding their possible abstention.
Prime Minister Sharon began meeting with individual MKs this morning in an effort to ensure their support for the budget. At the same time, Likud party figures have begun preparing for new elections, just in case the budget does not pass. The plans include rushed internal elections for party chairman on April 14, leaving little to no time for challengers such as Binyamin Netanyahu to prepare to run.