Budget compromises show Avigdor Liberman knows what it takes to win

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Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman presented the budget to the Knesset on Thursday, and there will be many debates and fights ahead before it can finally be approved in three readings. But after compromises were reached Thursday morning on some of the budget’s most controversial topics and a framework for first reading was approved by 59 to 53 votes, doubts over Liberman’s ability to pass some of the most controversial legislation. most complicated and ambitious of memory begin to fade.
On Thursday morning, just an hour before Liberman presented the budget to the Knesset, the finance ministry said an agreement had been reached with coalition members on the issue of raising the retirement age for women. from 62 to 65 years old. In addition to NIS 630 million that had already been budgeted for labor scholarships, vocational training and other programs that would help ease the transition to longer careers for women, it was agreed that several hundred million shekels would be added to the budget to provide an additional social safety net for disadvantaged women in old age, to reduce possible harm.

Among other things, the pension for women aged 62 to 65 will be increased by 700 NIS for a period of five years, at a total cost of 150 NIS.

Agreement was also reached on agricultural reforms, which would increase competition in the agricultural industry and lower the prices of fruits, vegetables and eggs for the consumer. Liberman, Agriculture Minister Oded Forer, and other coalition members agreed to remove the egg industry part from the context of the Economic Arrangements Act and discuss it separately over the next three years. month.

One area that remains to be resolved is regulatory reform. Even before the current government came to power, a plan was being developed to dramatically reduce excessive bureaucracy in government offices. Liberman said the plan would streamline regulations for citizens and government, and save the economy between NIS 7 and 8 billion. one year. However, Labor, Meretz and Blue and White say that creating another government regulator to reduce regulation would interfere with the fundamental workings of government and make it more difficult for officials to pass and enforce regulations. .

Liberman presents the 2021-2022 budget during a meeting in the Knesset on Thursday, September 2, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

But after paving the way for further reforms, Liberman should have little difficulty pushing forward with regulatory reform and other final details.

Liberman, a politics veteran with more than two decades of Knesset experience, played the whole process like a chess grandmaster, anticipating the moves of his opponents and planning several steps ahead. His deal two weeks ago to remove 30% of the bill from the Economic Arrangements Act was a traditional smokescreen employed by other finance ministers, removing decoy legislation (known in Hebrew as ” goats’) which was known to be controversial in order to reach consensus on other proposals. Liberman has proven himself to be a master at being flexible while playing hardball, ultimately getting everything he wants.

Liberman ceded to Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz with an additional NIS of 2b. for the health budget, and added NIS 7b. to the defense budget to appease Defense Minister Benny Gantz. A package of kosher market reforms that would effectively end the Chief Rabbinate’s long-standing monopoly on the kosherut oversight industry was excluded from the Economic Arrangements Act due to political considerations and NIS 150b. the budget for the new metro in the Dan region has been separated from the budget plan to be legislated separately.

Liberman noted that with such a limited time frame for the government to pass the 2021-2022 budget, it would be impossible to include everything this time around. Liberman believes that time is on his side and that he will have a much better chance of moving his agendas forward.

Despite all the concerns over the divergent agendas within the government that took office in June, the coalition has been surprisingly willing to compromise in the interest of getting things done. Liberman has repeatedly reminded those around him that this coalition can only work if everyone focuses only on their work and avoids publicly commenting on the affairs of other departments outside of their purview. .

It helps that coalition MPs have a tough deadline affecting their future. The Knesset will have to approve the budget in three readings by November 14 or the government will automatically be dissolved and a snap election will be called. Obtaining a majority of 61 to approve the budget will require the participation of all members of the coalition.

Of course, there is still a long way to go before the budget is finally approved, and there will be other challenges to overcome. But Liberman’s recent deal indicates he’s prepared for what may lie ahead.

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