Israel passes first state budget in three years

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Israeli lawmakers passed the country’s first state budget in three years Thursday in a victory for the ideologically disparate coalition that unseated veteran premier Benjamin Netanyahu in June.

MPs approved a 609 billion shekel ($194 billion) spending plan for 2021 and are to resume debate later in the day on 573 billion shekels for next year.

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“Celebration day for the state of Israel,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted after the vote.

“After years of chaos, we have formed a government, we have conquered Delta (variant of the coronavirus) and now, praise God, we have passed a budget for Israel.”

The stakes could not have been higher for Bennett, a right-wing religious nationalist whose coalition of hawks, centrists, left-wingers and Islamists controls just 61 of the 120 seats in parliament.

His coalition had until November 14 to get the budget approved to prevent parliament being dissolved, forcing what would have been the fifth election in three years.

Israel had not passed a state budget during that time, a symptom of the unprecedented political gridlock that plagued the country from December 2018 until when Bennett’s government was sworn in.

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