Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surrounded by Knesset members after a vote on the state budget for 2015-2016, November 18, 2015.

Israel News for November 19, 2015

Budget Finally Passes
Knesset members had a rough night last night, staying up till the early hours of the morning to vote on Israel’s 2015-2016 budget. After many long hours of debates, which began in the afternoon, the budget was approved by a slim majority of 61 in favor to 59 against. The final vote took place after the lawmakers voted on over 1,500 different pages of objections, covering over 30,000 specific reservations to the budget, which required over 420 different votes.

The voting got off to a rough start when the electronic voting system kept breaking, causing chaos. There was also a fair share of confusion when opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog accidentally voted in favor of the government on one of the objections, to the amusement of PM Netanyahu and some ministers. But then Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel also mistakenly cast his ballot with the opposition, breaking the government’s slim majority of one. The specific paragraph being voted on then needed to be taken back to the Knesset Economic Committee to be approved before being brought back to the floor for a “do-over”, resulting in a three hour delay.

By law, the government had to pass the budget by today or the government would have fallen. The opposition attempted to delay the voting by insisting on voting on every article but the government managed to push through a shortened voting process, preventing a filibuster by the opposition which would have include the 30,000 reservations and would have take 11 days to vote on.

Opposition to the budget was fierce. Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid said at the start of the Knesset budget debate, “This is not a debate It’s a party for the chevra. Today a budget will be approved where everyone is getting something except the citizens of Israel”. Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog said, “The Prime Minister doesn’t care that it’s impossible to live here with a rising cost of living and no solution to the housing crisis”.

The two year budget provides for 383.8 billion shekels ($98.2 billion) in 2015 spending and 424.8 billion shekels ($108.6 billion) in 2016. The 2015 budget was never approved because Netanyahu’s governing coalition broke up, which led to elections.

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Hitting Back
Israel is planning to strike back at EU countries who have decided to distinctly label Israeli products made in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan.

The countries Israel plans to take measures against are the UK, France, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Croatia, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium and Finland.

The measures Israel plans to use include a re-evaluation of the EU’s role in the peace process, summoning the ambassadors of the 16 countries to the Foreign Ministry for an official rebuke, and restricting meetings between ambassadors and Israeli officials.

Israel will also be much stricter regarding entry of foreign delegations to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In certain situations, their entry may even be denied. Same goes for EU projects in those areas.

Finally, Israel will limit dialogue with the EU on matters important to the Europeans such as terror fighting techniques.

However, Israel is being careful not to hurt itself in the process. According to a senior government source, “It would be foolish to take steps that will also harm us. We had to walk a tightrope between things we wanted to do so that they would get the message and not hurting ourselves.”

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Baby Race
The doomsayers have always predicted the demise of the Jewish State based on a rapidly increasing Arab population along with a decreasing or stagnant Jewish one. Well, it looks like they might need to rethink their forecast.

According the statistics just released by Israel’s Central Bureau of statistics, the birthrate of Jewish and Arab women in Israel is about even. At the end of 2014, Jewish women in Israel had a birth rate of 3.11 children and Arab women had a birth rate of 3.17 children. Slightly more than a decade ago, there was nearly a two-child gap in the birthrate, with Arab women at 4.3 compared to Jewish women at 2.6.

These numbers don’t include Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. But still, the numbers are something to smile about. Maybe the future isn’t that bleak after all.

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Israel’s Rich
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has released new figures that prove that a significant portion of Israelis aren’t doing too bad financially, despite what you hear.

According to the survey figures, the proportion of households owning two or more apartments rose from 3.2% to 9.1%, primarily since 2008. The figures also show that 44,000 households, or 1.8% of all Israeli households, own three or more apartments. And apartments in Israel are not cheap.

At the same time, the figures show that the proportion of people renting homes is rising while the percentage of homeowners is declining, which underscores that many Israelis can’t afford home prices, which are only going higher. On the bright side, with all those Israelis owning second and third apartments, there’s bound to be a plentiful supply of rentals.

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Flying High
Israeli high-tech companies aren’t the only ones with turbo charged growth. El Al airlines just announced that their net profit for the third quarter of 2015 was up 820% over profits in the same quarter last year. Reasons for the surge include substantially lower oil prices and a lot more passengers. To be fair, last year’s third quarter included Operation Protective Shield, which caused a drop in travelers to Israel. But still, let’s give EL AL a high five. Now if they could only get the flight attendants to be little nicer.

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