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Tensions rise in coalition as budget deadline nears 

What happened: With only a few weeks left to pass a state budget, cracks are emerging within the coalition over potential bills and policies.

  • The United Arab List (UAL) are holding up important talks over the Arrangements Law because Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked delayed legislation that would allow houses built without permits to be connected to the electrical grid.
  • Knesset Interior Committee Chairman MK Walid Taha (UAL) said: “We’ve reached a crossroads – either agreements are respected in their entirety, or we’ll go to elections. Electricity is a basic need, but the government is preventing tens of thousands of houses from being connected to power because it hasn’t bothered to provide planning for Arab communities over the decades.”
  • On Monday evening several coalition MKs held talks with Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar to express their anger that many private members’ bills are being ignored and held up by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. One of the MKs said: “It’s as if we don’t even exist. Every time a bill is introduced by Blue and White, Labour or Meretz gets to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation it is simply rejected or nullified. The only thing that matters to them is pushing forward bills proposed by [Sa’ar’s party] New Hope.”
  • Meretz and Yamina have clashed over the plan that was reached with the residents of the Evyatar outpost in the West Bank.  Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej (Meretz) said on Monday that his party would object to any plan that re-established the outpost and stated: “We will not agree for the Bennett government to be more right-wing than the Netanyahu government.” Interior Minister Shaked responded: “This is another meaningless statement by Meretz. The government will stand by the plan that it committed to.”

Context: Passing the budget and the arrangements bill by its November 14 deadline represents the most significant political test the government has faced since its inception in June.

  • On Sunday, Bennett urged his coalition to keep disputes internal and avoid “rocking the boat” until the state budget passes into law.
  • Ministers are coming under pressure to ensure their ministry’s financial requirement are meet in the state budget.
  • Defence Minister Benny Gantz appeared before the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday to justify his request budget increase for the military, explaining that the additional funds are necessary in order to prepare for a potential strike on Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is coming under pressure from Foreign Ministry employees to improve salaries for career diplomats and to increase the speed of promotions within the ministry, which are often held up by the Finance Ministry.
  • The legislation on electricity is regarded by UAL as one of the most important for its voter base, and it has sought to speed up its passage. However, coalition sources say that Interior Minister Shaked is only willing to approve the proposal if it applies to recognised towns and homes.
  • Sa’ar published a bill that would prevent a member of the Knesset charged with a serious crime from becoming prime minister. The proposed amendment to Israel’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws, if approved, would take effect after the next elections when a new Knesset is sworn in.
  • Meanwhile, signs of disagreement are also emerging from within the opposition. Leaked recordings from an internal Likud meeting this week suggested that some MKs do not approve of Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to boycott Knesset Committees. The ultra-Orthodox parties also want to end the boycott.
  • Another Likud MK argued that reflexively voting against coalition bills is also killing their legislative agenda.

Looking ahead: To prevent potential infighting Bennett had agreed to push off the vote on Sa’ar’s measures until after the budget is approved, but the timing of the published text could destabilise his party ahead of the budget vote.

  • Foreign Ministry staff have warned that they would shut down the ministry and embassies abroad if their demands are not met.

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