JERUSALEM (Mar. 29)
The Knesset battled into the early hours of Friday morning over a $32 billion budget, which all members agreed would be obsolete as soon as it is adopted.
The budget for fiscal 1990-91, which starts April 1, was drafted before the influx of immigrants from the Soviet Union. It docs not provide for the massive housing, employment and other urgent needs of the newcomers.
Moreover, it would be administered by a caretaker regime of uncertain duration, since the Likud-Labor unity government fell March 15 on a no-confidence motion.
Minister of Construction and Housing David Levy threatened to vote against the budget if $150 million from reserve funds is not earmarked to build 30,000 housing units for new immigrants.
Levy was pitted against his Likud colleague Dan Meridor, the justice minister, who was put in charge of the Treasury by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir after he fired Finance Minister Shimon Peres, the Labor Party leader, on March 13.
Likud Knesset member Dan Tichon noted that the outgoing fiscal year ended with a $900 million deficit, and predicted that the next budget deficit would be at least three times as high.
But while more than 3,000 protests and reservations were registered by members during the course of the debate, the Knesset managed to produce a windfall for the religious bloc.
The strictly Orthodox “haredi” parties are being courted ardently by Peres, who is trying to entice them into a Labor-led coalition — so far with a notable lack of success — and by Shamir, who is determined to foil his efforts.
Each party accused the other of bribing the rabbis, whose political clout vastly exceeds the size of their constituency.
The Knesset Finance Committee, which deliberated all night Wednesday, came up with a $111 million allocation for religious institutions, up from the $70 million discussed on Sunday.
A proposal to raise the religious allocation from $200,000 per Knesset member to $350,000 was defeated by a vote of 45-32.
The vote, led by the Citizens Rights Movement, Mapam and Shinui, was taken while many Likud and religious Knesset members were absent from the chamber.