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1997 Budget Passes First Hurdle

After tortuous debate and intensive behind-the- scenes negotiations, the Knesset this week passed a preliminary reading of the 1997 state budget.

The approximately $64 billion budget includes some $1.6 billion in cuts that were approved by the government in July.

Many of the budget’s parliamentary critics, including members of the governing coalition, had threatened to vote against the budget, saying that the cuts would hurt the poorer segments of Israeli society.

Wednesday’s preliminary reading was viewed as a vote of confidence in government policies.

The initial resistance to the budget voiced by coalition members had been an embarrassment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But he ultimately succeeded in securing the necessary majority in Wednesday’s vote by writing a letter to coalition faction heads in which he promised to make future changes in the budget, sparing some of the programs targeted for cuts.

The letter prompted cries of foul from the opposition parties, which said Netanyahu was ignoring proper legislative procedures.

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