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March 15, 2018 11:39 am

Israeli Parliament Approves 2019 State Budget

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) sits next to Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman (R) and Israeli Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz (L) at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, January 7, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Abir Sultan / Pool.

Israel’s parliament gave final approval on Thursday to the 2019 state budget, marking a return to political normality after a coalition dispute nearly toppled the government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned just a few days ago of a possible early election due to a feud in his ruling coalition over a bill to extend religious exemptions from the military. On Tuesday, the dispute was settled, with coalition partners agreeing on a process to draft the legislation.

Passing the 2019 budget gives the government a bit more breathing room.

The budget includes 479.6 billion shekels ($140 billion) in spending and sets the budget deficit target at 2.9 percent of gross domestic product. It passed by 62 to 54 in an overnight vote.

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“This is a budget that will continue to strengthen Israel’s economy in the next two years,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said.

The total is nearly 20 billion shekels more than the 2018 budget and includes 100 billion shekels of debt payments and another 39 billion for interest expenses.

The budget allocates 63 billion shekels for defense spending, the Finance Ministry said.

The budget and accompanying economic plan included several reforms, such as removing barriers to personal imports, making it easier to switch banks and easing families’ tax burden.

Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug had warned that the budget was too loose given the strong economy and believes the deficit should have been set at no more than 2.5 percent of GDP.

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