TEL AVIV - Nobody in Israel seems to know - even those who should know - what will be the amount of expenditures in the state budget for 1997 which is slated to be adopted by the Knesset before the end of the year. Only one thing is obvious: the Netanyahu government's anti-labor and anti-popular budget of approximately 37 billion U.S. dollars - which passed first reading at the beginning of November - will change for the worse before coming up for final reading.
Only one week after the first reading, the Netanyahu cabinet proposed additional cuts, almost all aimed at drastically cutting money for social services while increasing spending for military purposes and favoring private investments of big capitalist investors.
Netanyahu and his finance minister, Dan Meridor, try to blame the former Labor government for the need to drastically cut the social expenditures "in order to save the nation's economy." Truth is, however, that, while the former Rabin-Peres Labor government in many ways served the interests of big capital, the Netanyahu government is directly representing the big capital interests.
Therefore, in the whole media tug-of-war about these cuts, there is no talk whatsoever of cutting even a cent from the private capital investments or for military spending and repayment of debts, mainly stemming from arms purchases in the past. To the contrary, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai is demanding to add 1.1 billion U.S. dollars to the military spending originally proposed.
He justified this by maintaining that the army needs to get ready for a possible war and a new popular uprising in the Palestinian territories in face of the dead-end in the peace process and to cover higher expenditures connected with the redeployment in the occupied West Bank and Gaza during 1996. According to press reports, the cabinet will approve Mordechai's demands, thus increasing the original military expenditures and debt service from 31 percent of the budget to at least 38 percent.
A substantial increase in subsidies for housing and infrastructure for Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are designed to escalate the colonialist settling in the still-occupied Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights, as well as to step up the Judaization of occupied Arab eastern Jerusalem and its surroundings. To balance these added expenditures, the government will drastically cut spending for social services.
Unemployment allocations will be cut and limited to the first year of unemployment. State funds for national education are slated for a cut which will mean fewer schools will be built than needed for the growing population, that the standard of educational equipment will suffer, while fees for schooling and higher learning will increase and become out of reach for most families.
Pensions for retired public servants are earmarked for being cut and decreased spending on social welfare for the elderly and large-sized families will hurt broad sections of people.
"The other side of the policy of escalating the colonialist settlement on robbed Palestinian and Syrian lands and of war preparations led by the Netanyahu government are the drastic cuts in budgetary spending for social funds, municipal services, health, education, housing for the poverty stricken masses, for children," the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) said in a statement.
This policy, together with the government plans to escalate the privatizing of state-owned enterprises, corporations and assets, while trampling underfoot the working people's right to organized trade union membership and to struggle for defense of their living standard, is a catastrophic policy for the working masses, the CPI said. "The anti-labor, neo- liberal policy of the Netanyahu government leads to one fundamental result: To make the rich richer, to make the poor poorer."
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