Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

It’s A Budget!

Israel has a budget.

Habemus budget.

As of just over a half hour ago (I woke early, news flash on the 6 AM news, and yes, the Knesset was at it all night). Vote was 61-59. Just made it, but made it.

That the day would ever come that I would write so, with such emotion, joy, even!– halleluyah!– about a budget. But yes, total– yey!

Not having one became Netanyahu’s mega-“gift” in dysfunction to this country– the more reason we need him, only him, du alein, to deal with it– and was his ticket to staying in as Prime Minister in violation of agreements he had signed and statements he swore to, on live TV. It was his, and Likud’s ticket, to ad hoc, politically driven spending awarded to and withheld from their chosen ones, to hell with the country.

Having the budget bill passed was (was! past tense! halleluyah for the past tense! never have I so loved the past tense!), the sine qua non for the current government remaining in power. Had it failed to pass, we would have gone immediately to elections.

It is, of course, about rational fiscal planning for an entire country; the insanity of 3.5 years without a national budget is just breathtaking to ponder. But obviously, it was about politics, of the worst, most dangerous sort. There are coups with tanks and there is the insidious, progressive coup through maneuvers like not passing a budget, combined, of course, with relentless attacks on the constitutional democratic institutions of this country, the stoking of class, ethnic, and religious divisions, and the cynical manipulation of fear about Iran and covid– from which only he could save us.

Past tense-! Never has the prospect of Netanyahu in past tense been brighter.

All this is aside from specifics in the budget that are badly needed. Like finally, starting to erode the endlessly corrupt, destructive, subsidy of the haredi establishment through fiscal pressure on haredi men to get sufficient secular education so that they can be gainfully employed enough to support their own families. That won’t happen overnight but the pressure is now on and, one hopes, the message clear that that era of mass social dysfunction that hobbles not just that sector but the whole society is on the way out.

Starting to tax disposable plates, etc.– putting ecological priorities into real life action. Yes, this measure falls heavily on the haredi sector and no, that was no coincidence in a budget drawn up by Liberman, but that is also on them. Want huge families? Your choice, and your responsibility. If the helot class there, women, don’t get bought off with plastic plates, table “cloths”, and cutlery that hurt the environment we all share, maybe they will push back against helotry.

Upping the tax on sugary drinks, because everyone pays for obesity, diabetes, including in much higher rates of severe covid, resulting in intensive, round the clock care in hospitals.

It remains to be seen how the prospect of stability will play out in this government’s ability to institute other policies that benefit the country but I am sure there will be much such opportunity and many such initiatives. There is certainly much need for serious, competent governance that addresses pressing problems, from the health system to roads to education, to organized crime taking a particular, horrific, toll in the Arab sector and the rot the underlies that escalating problem. Finally, perhaps, serious attention to creeping theocracy and to enforcing the Basic Law on Human Dignity for all, in particular, for women held in marital captivity in a system that enshrines abuse. We need a functioning government, not another mega-fund-wasting, society-shredding election.

To Bennet, Lapid, Liberman– to two of whom I would never have imagined myself saying, yasher koyekh! — kol hakavod.

And to all of us, a good day, yom tov, yom metsuyan!

About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. Her new book is the first history of agunot and iggun from medieval times to the present, across the Jewish map. It also presents analysis and critique of current policy on Jewish marital capitivity and proposals to end this abuse. Entitled, "Thinking Outside the Chains About Jewish Marital Captivity," it is forthcoming from NYU Press. She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post.