Israel cabinet passes 2015-16 budget draft

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Published: August 6, 2015 11:00:29 AM

Israel's cabinet approved the state's budget draft for 2015-16 early on Thursday after a marathon all-night session, ending weeks of political infighting that saw last-minute deals to allow the budget to head to parliament.

Israel’s cabinet approved the state’s budget draft for 2015-16 early on Thursday after a marathon all-night session, ending weeks of political infighting that saw last-minute deals to allow the budget to head to parliament.

Parliament is expected to take its initial vote on Aug. 31 on the spending package, which will face an uphill battle because of deep divisions between ministers and other lawmakers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Netanyahu leads a five-party coalition that came to power after elections in March. He holds 61 of the 120 seats in parliament, putting any legislative vote on a knife edge.

The government is hoping for final parliamentary approval for the 13-month plan covering December 2015 through 2016 by Nov. 19.

Netanyahu warned ministers on Tuesday that his government would collapse if they did not put a stop to their fiscal demands and rally behind the budget.

He said it was an obligation to bring about economic growth of 4 percent, up from an expected 3 percent this year and a projected 3.3 to 3.7 percent projected in 2016.

Netanyahu toned down his rhetoric ahead of the cabinet vote but still rebuked ministers for seeking more funds at the expense of fiscal responsibility and economic growth.

“This is a budget designed to continue the economic growth in the State of Israel,” he said, adding that it balanced Israel’s security and other needs.

“Dividing up the pie is important but much less so than enlarging it, because the pieces that go to each citizen will be much bigger if the pie is enlarged,” Netanyahu said.

He noted that budget reforms such as food and housing, and an accompanying bill aimed at boosting competition, would lead to a lower cost of living.

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