Are the right-wing parties bartering Netanyahu with money in exchange for staying at the head of the government?

It seems that the hard-line Israeli parties are bartering Benjamin Netanyahu with money in exchange for his remaining at the head of the government, by presenting demands in exchange for their approval of the draft annual budget.

Netanyahu faces difficult negotiations with his partner parties in the government before May 29, which is the deadline for the Knesset (parliament) to approve the state budget.

According to Israeli law, unless the Knesset approves the budget by that date, Parliament will be subject to dissolution and early elections.

In December 2022, Netanyahu formed his most right-wing government in Israel after 5 elections in less than 4 years, during which he lost the premiership for more than a year and a half when the government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid was formed.

Netanyahu needs to be at the head of the government while the Israeli Central Court considers charges against him on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected these accusations, but unless he is convicted by the Supreme Court – the country’s highest judicial body – he can remain in office unless his government falls.

Since its formation, it is the most serious budget crisis facing the Netanyahu government, with its 64 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

Upon obtaining the approval of his partner parties, Netanyahu can gain the confidence of the Knesset for the 2023 and 2024 budgets, but he faces problems with his government’s parties.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich believes that opening and disposing of the budget in a different way means bringing down the government (Reuters)

Money for voting

On May 16, the Israeli Parliamentary Finance Committee approved the draft state budget law for the years 2023 and 2024.

“Under the bill, the state budget for 2023 will amount to 484 billion shekels ($132 billion) and 514 billion shekels ($140 billion) for 2024,” the Knesset said in a statement.

The religious and right-wing nationalist parties threaten not to vote in favor of the budget bill unless they obtain budgets, amid warnings of the impact of accepting it on the future of Israel.

However, the official Israeli Broadcasting Authority said last Sunday that the leader of the far-right Jewish Power Party, Itamar Ben Gvir, called for a budget of 700 million shekels ($192 million) to be allocated for the development of the Negev and the Galilee (south), as he put it. As for the United Torah Judaism party, it is calling for 600 million shekels (164 million dollars) to be allocated to religious schools.

The Broadcasting Authority also quoted Netanyahu as saying that reopening the budget to distribute funds again is suicide, because that means that partisan demands will not be completed soon, and therefore the budget will not be passed on its deadline, which is on the 29th of this month.

Israel weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
The leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, Itamar Ben Gvir, demanded a budget of $192 million (Reuters)

Overthrow the government

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich confirms that opening the budget and disposing of it in a different way means bringing down the government and opening the possibility for the rest of the coalition parties to put forward new demands, and this means that in the end the budget prepared for voting will not be passed.

The time factor is decisive in such a dispute in the government coalition, as it is expected that voting on the budget items prepared for the years 2023 and 2024 will begin in the Knesset Plenum, on Tuesday, with voting ending on Wednesday morning of this week, according to the previously prepared program.

In a speech in West Jerusalem on Thursday, Netanyahu said it was time to stop making threats, stop boycotting, and urged his partners to work together to pass the budget for the people.

Netanyahu realizes that the partner parties will eventually be forced to vote in favor of the budget for fear of the fall of the government and heading for early elections, yet his partners continue to put pressure on him until the last moments.

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