Avigdor Liberman
Avigdor LibermanYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman is convinced that the budget approved today by the government contains a series of good tidings for the Israeli public and has gone so far as to promise it will pass a Knesset vote.

"I am not negotiating with the Joint Arab List - we have our own government," he said. If we have to, we will get one or two of them to support it without a moment's hesitation. We have a government majority and all it takes now is 61 Knesset MKs," he said in an interview with Channel 12 News.

Liberman explained his proposal to raise taxes on soft drinks: "Sugar consumption in the State of Israel is among the highest in the world. That is why we have 600,000 diabetics. The highest rate of consumption is among young people from the weaker sections of society. Raising the tax on sweet drinks will reduce it. Israel also uses five times the amount of plastic containers EU countries do. This will change the rules of the game. The budget is not just about specific needs but will make an impact on daily life."

"You can search the small text, but in terms of the message, there's a lot of content here," Liberman continued. "I was told that there was no chance the government would increase the retirement age for women or reform kashrut certificates. Reforms to public transportation are a huge factor. We are paving the way for the biggest project in Israel's history since the construction of the Second Temple - subway in the Gush Dan area. We want to take NIS 150 million from occasional [public transportation] passengers and invest in expanding the service."

Asked if Israel is on track to enforcing another lockdown for the High Holidays, Liberman replied: "Even if unpopular decisions are needed, we will do what the experts say. Political decisions should not be made based on public opinion. There is a worrying increase in morbidity worldwide. The most important thing is to get the virus under control."

Regarding budgetary promises to United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas, Liberman said: "Resolution 922 of December 30, 2015 was made by the Netanyahu government. NIS 26 billion will be invested in this budget and another NIS 26 billion in the next. I appreciate the courage of Mansour Abbas who visited a [looted] synagogue in Lod and promised to have it recuperated. "Crime in the Arab sector effects everyone," he stated.

Members of the Joint Arab List responded to Liberman's comments about Abbas. "We are the ones who represent [the Arab] public that can't be bought with money - not Mansour Abbas and Ra'am. We will not support a budget that deepens the occupation and settlements, micromanages electricity and fuel, raises the retirement age for women and weakens the underprivileged," they said.