Israel’s Netanyahu, Allies Pass New Budget with Sweeping Grants for Settlements, Ultra-Orthodox 

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the budget session at the parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2023. (AFP)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the budget session at the parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2023. (AFP)
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Israel’s Netanyahu, Allies Pass New Budget with Sweeping Grants for Settlements, Ultra-Orthodox 

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the budget session at the parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2023. (AFP)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the budget session at the parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2023. (AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Wednesday passed a new two-year budget, a step that could bring some stability to his coalition and clear the way for it to press ahead with its religious, pro-settlement agenda.

While the budget could buy Netanyahu some quiet inside his coalition of ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist parties, Israel's most hard-line ever, it also was expected to deepen the divisions in Israel.

Critics have accused Netanyahu of increasing spending on his ultra-Orthodox allies for religious programs that have little benefit for the economy and broader society.

The vote dragged on overnight, with the budgets for 2023 and 2024 finally passing with a 64-56 vote in parliament after daybreak. It followed weeks of tense negotiations between Netanyahu and the parties in his coalition.

“We have received the tools, we're rolling up our sleeves and going to work,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said after the vote."

The new budget has been criticized for allocating nearly $4 billion in discretionary funds, much of it for ultra-Orthodox and pro-settler parties.

That will include increases in controversial stipends for ultra-Orthodox men to study full time in religious seminaries instead of working or serving in the military, which is compulsory for most secular males.

It also includes more money for ultra-Orthodox schools, which are widely criticized for not teaching students skills like math and English needed in the modern workplace.

The funds also include tens of millions of dollars for hard-line pro-settler parties to promote pet projects through the ministries they control.

Smotrich, a settler leader, has said he hopes to double the population of West Bank settlers in the coming years.

The government’s composition and agenda have deeply divided the country. On Tuesday, several thousand flag-waving Israelis protested outside the parliament building against the budget.

That smaller demonstration over the budget followed months of sustained mass protest against a series of proposals by Netanyahu's government to overhaul the country's judicial system while he is on trial for corruption.

Proponents say the measures are needed to rein in an overzealous Supreme Court, but critics say the plan would destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and compromise Israeli democracy.

That plan has raised concerns overseas but is now on hold. Now that the budget has passed, however, Netanyahu may face renewed pressure from his allies to bring it back before parliament.

Following the budget vote, Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 14 that it was the “dawn of a new day” and said that the judicial overhaul plan would be revived.



40 Dead in Heavy Rains in Afghanistan, 17 killed in Bus Accident

Afghans examine the scene of destruction after torrential rains in, Shansra Ghondai village, Sorkhroud district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 15 July 2024. EPA/SHAFIULLAH KAKAR
Afghans examine the scene of destruction after torrential rains in, Shansra Ghondai village, Sorkhroud district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 15 July 2024. EPA/SHAFIULLAH KAKAR
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40 Dead in Heavy Rains in Afghanistan, 17 killed in Bus Accident

Afghans examine the scene of destruction after torrential rains in, Shansra Ghondai village, Sorkhroud district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 15 July 2024. EPA/SHAFIULLAH KAKAR
Afghans examine the scene of destruction after torrential rains in, Shansra Ghondai village, Sorkhroud district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, 15 July 2024. EPA/SHAFIULLAH KAKAR

Heavy rains in eastern Afghanistan have killed at least 40 people and injured nearly 350 others, Taliban officials said Tuesday. Separately, at least 17 died when a bus overturned on a main highway, official media said.
Sharafat Zaman Amar, a spokesperson for the Public Health Ministry, confirmed that 40 people had died in Monday's storm and that 347 injured people had been brought for treatment to the regional hospital in Nangarhar from Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, and nearby districts.
Among the dead were five members of the same family who were killed when the roof of their house collapsed in Surkh Rod district, according to provincial spokesperson Sediqullah Quraishi. Four other family members were injured, The Associated Press reported.
About 400 houses and 60 electricity poles were destroyed across Nangarhar province, Quraishi said. Power was cut in many areas and there were limited communications in Jalalabad city, he said. The damage was still being assessed, Quraishi said.
Abdul Wali, 43, said much of the damage occurred within an hour. “The winds were so strong that they blew everything into the air. That was followed by heavy rain,” he said. His 4-year-old daughter received minor injuries, he said.
In May, exceptionally heavy rains killed more than 300 people and destroyed thousands of houses, mostly in the northern province of Baghlan, according to the World Food Program.
Separately, the official Taliban news agency Bakhtar reported that at least 17 people were killed and 34 others injured when a bus overturned Tuesday morning on the main highway linking Kabul and Balkh in northern Baghlan province.
The cause of the accident wasn't immediately clear, but poor road conditions and careless driving are often blamed for such incidents in the country.