After leaping the hurdle that could have brought down their government, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was joined by the foreign and finance ministers on Saturday night for a victory lap news conference after passing a two-year budget, “rescuing Israel from three years of instability.”
“With quiet persistence and joint effort, we have steered the ship to safe shores,” he said. “The government is stable; it will serve a full term. Now we must look to the long list of tasks that awaits us, everyone in their sphere, and get to work.”
Passing the budget was a critical test of survival for Bennett and his eight-party coalition. Every vote from Bennett’s one-seat majority was needed and the disparate parties managed to stick together to pass not one budget but two last week well before the Nov. 14 deadline that would have dissolved the parliament and sent the country to its fifth election in three years.
Now Bennett said they are looking to solve issues that have been neglected over the three years there was no budget.
“Housing costs, the traffic jams that are out of control, Israel's infamous cost of living, the helplessness of the people in the face of rampaging crime, and the loss of governance in the Negev,” Bennett said. “Without delay, without despairing in advance, even if the tasks are great, and even if they take time, we will get started.”
Flanked by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – head of the centrist Yesh Atid party – and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman – head of the secular right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party – Bennett extolled his government’s accomplishments over the past five months including breaking the Delta wave, being the first country in the world to push booster shots against COVID, increasing employment and now passing the budget.
Under a power-sharing deal, Lapid will take over as prime minister in September 2023.
Much of the drama last week centered around former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was widely blamed for not passing – or being unwilling to pass – a new budget since 2018, instead maintaining his grip on power.
“In my opinion, his magic is finished,” Liberman said.
Netanyahu mistakenly voted with the coalition on several votes last week before changing his vote.
At Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Bennett said the government will now take up “several issues related to the coronavirus,” among other matters.
He said Israel would consider whether to purchase Pfizer’s new anti-COVID pill should it receive FDA approval. According to a report on Channel 12 news on Saturday, however, Israel is not among the first 90 countries in line to get the drug. Israel currently uses Pfizer’s vaccine nearly exclusively and has some of the world’s highest vaccination rates.
“If the drug is approved for use, it will be another significant tool in managing the pandemic, together with vaccines for all and accessible tests for all, all the time,” Bennett said.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.