Israeli parliament approves 2021 budget, averting election threat

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stands between Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Justice Minister Gideon Saar at a news conference on economy in Jerusalem, July 6, 2021. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

JERUSALEM, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Israel's parliament approved the 2021 national budget on Thursday, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government meeting a deadline for its passage and averting the threat of a new election.

Parliament continued its overnight session and will hold a separate vote for a 2022 budget. It is widely expected to approve that package early on Friday.

The legislature voted 61-59 vote in favour of the 2021 budget in a test for Bennett's diverse coalition of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties.

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Failure to win parliamentary ratification for the 2021 package by Nov. 14 would have triggered a new election by law, but many political commentators had predicted it would be approved.

Hours after the 2021 budget passed, lawmakers approved in a 61-to-57 vote a host of reforms in a corresponding economic plan - such as removing import barriers and streamlining government regulation - which had been encouraged by the Bank of Israel as a boon for businesses affected by state policies. read more

A prolonged political stalemate in Israel had meant that no budget had been approved in the legislature in more than 3-1/2 years. The country has been running with a pro-rated version of the 2019 budget, something economists say is hindering growth.

Passage of the 2021 budget came nearly five months after Bennett's government took office, replacing the administration of long-time leader Benjamin Netanyahu following four inconclusive elections in two years.

"It's a day for celebration for the State of Israel," Bennett, who heads a far-right party, said on Twitter after the vote.

"After years of chaos, we established a government, overcame the (COVID-19) Delta variant and now, thank God, we passed a budget for Israel."

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Reporting by Jeffrey Heller Editing by Robert Birsel and Giles Elgood

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