Budget disagreement threatens fragile Israel coalition government – Middle East Monitor

Orthodox Jewish parties threatened to quit the coalition government if their budget demands were not met, Hebrew media reported on Friday.

The Agudat Yisrael faction of the United Torah Judaism party has threatened to pull out of the coalition and vote down the budget if it does not receive the demanded funds, The Times of Israel reported several Hebrew media outlets disclosing.

According to the reports, one of the extremist ultra-Orthodox parties, Agudat Yisrael, cites promises made in their coalition deal with Likud.

The ultra-Orthodox parties are seeking an additional NIS 600 million ($164 million) to fund full-time religious scholars, in addition to the billions already pledged to their community.

Reporting Kan News, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would resign if the Haredi parties received the NIS 600 million in the upcoming budget. However, his office denied he made such a threat.

Walla news site reported that Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Meir Porush threatened to resign and return to the Knesset to vote against the budget.

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“We didn’t follow [Netanyahu] to elections just so that he would violate agreements with us,” Agudat Yisrael officials told Channel 12, noting there would be no support for Netanyahu without the additional funds.

Meanwhile, the government coalition must pass the budget before its 29 May deadline. If the budget is not passed before the deadline, snap elections and an automatic dissolution of the Knesset will be triggered.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has ordered Otzma Yehudit lawmakers to boycott Knesset votes in a bid to pressure allied parties to divert more funds to his party’s priorities in the budget, The Times of Israel reported.

Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir met on Wednesday in an attempt to solve the dispute. According to Channel 12, the atmosphere was not positive — Netanyahu told Ben Gvir that there was no way to redirect the funds to his priorities.

The Knesset is preparing to vote on the 2023-2024 overall budget, allocating NIS 484.8 billion this year and NIS 513.7 billion in 2024, an increase from NIS 452.5 billion in 2022.

In addition, coalition members are struggling with how they would pass the planned judicial reforms, which take hundreds of thousands of Israelis out to the streets to protest against the government.

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