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Israeli Budget Passes First Round After Rabin Turns on the Pressure

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Israel’s 1994 state budget was passed by a comfortable majority in its first vote before the Knesset.

The favorable result in Wednesday’s vote — 59-46 with three abstentions — came as a result of some last-minute arm-twisting by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Finance Minister Avraham Shohat.

The vote on the budget is traditionally considered a vote of confidence in the government.

The budget is now to be forwarded for Knesset committee approval. The final budget vote should take place before the end of 1993.

Rabin and Shohat cajoled a group of recalcitrant Knesset members from their own Labor Party, as well as members of the two Arab-led leftist parties — the Arab Democratic Party and the Communist-led Hadash — and three members from the United Torah Judaism bloc, which usually stands in opposition to the Labor government.

As a result of Rabin and Shohat’s efforts, only one of all these Knesset members, Labor’s Ya’acov Shefi, voted against the budget.

The Arab Knesset members and the other Labor waverers lined up solidly behind the bill, while the three United Torah members abstained.

Avraham Shapira, the leader of United Torah, said his party had found “good will” on the government’s part toward the party’s budget demands.

If this good will were translated into action, he said, his faction would support the bill in all future votes.

Shas, another fervently religious party that is wavering between rejoining the coalition or lining up with the opposition, voted for the budget following a reported deal with Shohat.

The one Labor rebel, Shefi, who is a union leader at the unrest-plagued Israel Aircraft Industries, defied Rabin’s threat to “throw him out of the faction.”

The overall state budget for next year will be approximately $44.3 billion.

Major outlays called for in the budget include: $11.7 billion for debt servicing and repayments; $6 billion for defense spending; $9.1 billion for social services; and $5.6 billion for spending on domestic programs, which includes a $700 million increase in spending on education.

Shohat predicted in an address to the Knesset on Monday that the government is looking forward to accelerated economic growth as a result of the Sept. 13 signing of the self-rule accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Shohat also cited Israel’s improved standing in the international community following the historic signing as a factor in the anticipated economic growth of the country.

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