A Different View on Israel

Budget Games

The end of the year is rapidly approaching but Israel still does not have a State Budget for the next year, 2021, which promises to be exceedingly challenging. Moreover, Israel does not have a State Budget for the current year even though according to the Coalition Agreement, a two-year budget (20-21) should have been passed. But apparently in Israel, political in-fighting knows no limits and for personal and political gain or perceived gain, anything is allowed and done. After a budget crisis was avoided at the very last moment in August, when the Knesset passed a law to extend the deadline to pass a budget by 120 days (to December 23rd), both the Likud and Blue-White (the two main coalition partners) have been using the budget to accuse each other of forcing the country into a fourth election in little over a year, while ignoring the damage that is being done.

In the meantime, due to the absence of a State Budget, which requires the State to operate within the limits set by the last approved budget, (of 2019), numerous problems arise because there is no financing, or financial planning. Education, Social Services, Defense, Health care, all are financed on a month-by-month basis, and additional budget allocation is done by government decision, without parliamentary oversight. This allows for political control over many activities that under normal circumstances would be guaranteed financing through the approved State Budget. The finance minister, Katz, under orders from Netanyahu, will make decisions based on political interests, not economic ones. The best example for this has been the 6 billion shekels that was wasted when Netanyahu decided to give every Israeli citizen a “Corona Grant” of 750 shekels, against the advice of all senior finance ministry personnel. This populist decision without any economic justification heralded the start of an exodus from the Finance Ministry of senior personnel that was sick of being ignored on one hand and verbally abused by their boss on the other, every time they dared to open their mouths. Which leaves Katz more or less on his own, without the experience to run the Finance Ministry, but with a free hand to do what he, or his boss wants.

And the political dirt-throwing continuous unabatedly. The absurdity is there for all to see, but that doesn’t appear to bother our representatives. Passing a State Budget for 2020 on December 23rd??? It is unclear if legally the government is required to pass a budget even if the year is over, but it definitely does not have practical relevance. The damage has been done and in most cases cannot be reversed. The “discussion” if a one-year or a two-year budget should be passed is also completely mute, since there is only one year left in any case.

What is needed now, is a budget for 2021. To be able for the various ministries to return to orderly planning of their activities, to be able to finance the many projects that were abandoned in 2020, to be able to serve us, citizens in the coming, financially very problematic year. The Likud is still against preparing the 2021 budget and insists on the 2020 budget first, followed in March by the 2021 budget.

It is infuriating to hear Miki Zohar, the ill-tempered, ignorant coalition whip, talk on TV about the problems with the 2021 budget. He is simply echoing his master, but in a crude and less sophisticated way than Netanyahu knows how to do. “We cannot now prepare a 2021 budget”, Zohar exclaims. “We do not know what will happen in 2021! We have a Corona Crisis and we don’t know what to do”. He is probably not even aware that he just admitted to not being able to govern. To govern means to be able to plan, to analyze and predict the development of (sometimes) difficult situations, to be ready to act when the unexpected happens. We really didn’t need any confirmation that this government is incapable of leading this country, the incredible mess surrounding the Corona crisis is making that very, very clear, but to have a senior government representative admit this openly on national TV is a novelty, even for the failing Israeli political system.

Even more worrisome though is the fact that Miki Zohar is lying. He knows the real reason not to pass a 2021 budget has nothing to do with the inability to plan ahead. The bill approved by the Knesset in August provided the 120-day extension, but also stipulates that if the budget is not passed by December 23rd, new elections will be held in March. Netanyahu needs the option to rip apart this coalition. He wants to prevent at any cost, that Gantz will become Prime Minister in November 2021, as the coalition agreement stipulates, but even more so, new elections will almost surely lead to postponement of his corruption trial and may even lead to legislation in a new Knesset, to hold off on the trial as long as Netanyahu is Prime Minister.

To Netanyahu and his minions, the Israeli economy is not interesting. The Corona crisis is a minor nuisance. The million unemployed do not bother them. The political survival of Netanyahu is the only thing that matters. Nothing happens that is not in the interest of Netanyahu. The country may fall apart, but Netanyahu doesn’t care. And most incredible of all, the country is still not throwing him out. Elections will most likely return Netanyahu to the Prime Minister’s office. Possibly with a different coalition, but who cares. He will continue his self-centered politics, and anyone opposing him is either a leftist, an anarchist, or both.

How do we get rid of this guy?

I hope you found this article interesting and I welcome any comments you may have.

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