Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a media briefing ahead of Israel’s general budget vote at the Jerusalem Parliament on May 23, 2023.
The Israeli parliament agreed on controversial funding for ultra-Orthodox Jews in the 2023-2024 state budget approved on Wednesday, a move condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Thousands demonstrated in Jerusalem on Tuesday against accusations of diverting public funds to ultra-Orthodox Jews and accused the ruling coalition of “plundering” the country.
Netanyahu announced a day earlier that the state would provide 250 million shekels ($67.5 million) to married ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pursuing religious studies instead of working, in addition to the benefits they are already giving to the community. Are.
This was made possible by a last-minute deal with one of the coalition’s ultra-conservative parties.
The budget was finally approved on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday by a majority of 64 out of 120 representatives in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), which corresponds to members of Netanyahu’s “right-wing bloc”.
“We have won the election, we have approved the budget, we continue for four more years,” Netanyahu congratulated himself in a message on Facebook after weeks of talks to reach an agreement with his coalition partners. Gave.
Netanyahu’s government, which includes right-wing, far-right and ultra-conservative parties, has until May 29 to approve the budget or call new elections.
– “A crime” –
“While they were sleeping, the worst and most disastrous budget in the country’s history was adopted,” opposition leader Yair Lapid said on Facebook.
He said, “This budget is a breach of contract with the citizens of Israel, which all of us, our children and our children’s children, will continue to pay.”
With high inflation, rising interest rates and the devaluation of the shekel in recent months, a budget that provided a “growth engine” would have been better suited for “wealth transfers” to ultra-Orthodox institutions, Asher Blass told AFP. , Professor of Economics at Ashkelon Academic College.
In his opinion, the country already had a “worse” budgetary position, but the current trajectory is “not good.”
Contacted by AFP, Yosef Hajki, an 80-year-old retiree from the outskirts of Tel Aviv, estimated that “the public has been forgotten” in this new budget.
“This government only works for the coalition, ultra-Orthodox and religious nationalists (representing the population) and for the occupied territories, but not for (the rest of) the population,” he criticized.
For this retiree, the new subsidy for ultra-Orthodox men is a “crime”.
“At least this money should be given to the youth serving in the army,” he said.
In Israel, several years of military service is mandatory for men and women except for the Ultra-Orthodox, who represent 12% of the population.
Sivan Sharon, a 38-year-old Israeli working in the new technology sector – one of the engines of the country’s economy, regrets that “the taxes we pay (…) do not go to those who really need it”. .
“At the end of the day, they go to the population that has chosen not to work and the government encourages it. This money could be used for the most vulnerable population, soldiers, health and education…not necessities are lacking”, in abundance.