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Likud reaches deal with UTJ, removing obstacle to budget

The Agudat Yisrael faction will receive 250 million shekels.

Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf arrives at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf arrives at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Israel’s governing Likud Party announced on Monday that an agreement was reached with United Torah Judaism on the state budget, removing a major obstacle to its passage.

Under the deal, the 2023-2024 draft budget will not change. Instead, UTJ’s Agudat Yisrael faction will receive up to 250 million shekels ($68 million) for stipends to its yeshivah students that will come from surplus coalition funds.

Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, head of the Chassidic Agudat Yisrael faction, negotiated the deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

Agudat Yisrael’s four members of Knesset had been threatening to vote against the state budget. Failure to pass the 2023 budget by May 29 would see the Knesset automatically dissolved and send Israel to its sixth election in just over four years.

The final stages of approving the state budget began at 9 a.m. on Monday with discussions in the Knesset plenum as the chairpersons of the committees made their presentations.

On Tuesday night, Netanyahu and Smotrich will speak on the budget along with opposition and Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid and Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni, who heads UTJ’s second faction, the three-MK “Litvak” Degal HaTorah movement.

Then the voting will begin and continue overnight into Wednesday.

The two-year draft budget approved by the Finance Committee stands at 484 billion shekels ($132 billion) in 2023 and 514 billion shekels ($140 billion) in 2024.

Budget disputes remain with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and his Otzma Yehudit Party and with Noam Chairman Avi Maoz.

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