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Israeli Cabinet Advances Budget, Gov't 08/02 06:13

   

   JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's Cabinet advanced a national budget on Monday for 
the first time since 2018 in a sign of stability for the country's fragile new 
government.

   The 120-member Knesset must still approve the two-year spending plan by 
November to avoid dissolving the government and new elections.

   A failure to agree on a budget was one of the factors that led to the 
collapse of the previous government, led by Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu. That 
resulted in new elections early this year that ultimately put Prime Minister 
Naftali Bennett in charge of an eight-party coalition spanning the political 
spectrum.

   "Israel is returning to work," Bennett said after an all-night session. He 
said the 2021-2022 spending plan "reflects concern for all citizens of Israel 
and does not serve any narrow sectorial interest."

   The Cabinet's approval of the spending plan is another step toward avoiding 
new elections, though it is no guarantee.

   The coalition government is delicately balanced, including far-right and 
far-left parties as well as an Arab party. With a narrow 61-seat majority in 
the 120-seat parliament, a host of issues, ranging from economic policies to 
dealing with the Palestinians, could threaten the fragile alliance at any time.

   Under the agreement, Bennett, a leader of Israel's settlement movement, 
would remain prime minister for two years while centrist Yair Lapid serves as 
foreign minister. Lapid would then ascend to the top post.

   Bennett said the agreement is a sign that "this government would deal with 
the public and not itself." And in a nod to talks between now and the November 
deadline for passage, he added: "Good luck to us all."

 
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