Wed, 22 Sep 2021

JERUSALEM, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- Israel's government approved on Monday its 2021-2022 state budget, three years after the government last approved a new budget due to a political deadlock.

The budget was passed after a marathon government meeting that lasted almost 24 hours. However, it still needs to be approved by the Knesset in three rounds of voting.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Israel has a budget," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose government was sworn in June, said in televised remarks after passing the budget.

"After three years of stagnation, Israel is returning to work," he said, referring to the years in which the government operated without an updated budget due to a political stalemate.

"After years of neglect, this morning we bring the most daring, most competitive budget, the most helpful to the less fortunate people and the most concerned about the future of our children for years," he said.

He said the budget includes allocations for building a metro in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, increasing competition in consumer goods and food in order to reduce Israel's high living costs and boosting the public health system.

Bennett criticized his predecessor, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for catering to the Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties' demands for special allocations for Yeshiva (Jewish seminaries) and other benefits for ultra-Orthodox families, at the expense of the general population.

"This budget reflects concern for the entire citizens of Israel and does not serve the narrow interest of one sector or another," Bennett said.

He said passing the budget will also help the stability of his coalition government, which has a narrow 61-59 majority in the Knesset.

In remarks alongside Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the reforms would bring tangible change to Israeli society.

"The reforms we have approved focus primarily on lowering the living cost. We have invested huge amounts of funding in infrastructure, transportation and real estate, and we have implemented significant reforms that will reduce bureaucracy, making it easier for everyone in our day-to-day business or private life," Liberman said.

Passing the budget in the cross-partisan coalition, composed of eight parties, was a major test of the new prime minister.

During two years of political deadlock and four elections, Israel used a version of the state budget for 2019, which was approved in March 2018.

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