ISRAEL – After a long and acrimonious debate in the cabinet, ministers approved on Sunday a steep 1.35 percent budget cut across the board to all ministries to pay for a multi-billion-shekel pay increase for those serving in non-military security services.
The decision paves the way for a series of pay increases beginning in January 2019 that will eventually see the salaries of tens of thousands of employees of the Israel Police, Prisons Service, Shin Bet and Mossad made equal to their parallel ranks in the IDF.
The decision split the cabinet, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon celebrating the decision, while others, including Welfare Minister Haim Katz and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, warning that the budget cuts meant to pay for the salary hikes will dramatically hurt the poorest Israelis.
“This corrects a historical wrong,” enthused Erdan, the main proponent of the salary hike. “It comes after two months of intensive negotiations and 13 years of unpaid back wages.”
“This is good news for police officers and pensioners of the police, Prisons Service, Shin Bet and Mossad, who serve with dedication for the nation’s security,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the vote.
The Forum of Police and Prisons Service Officers and Pensioners, an umbrella body representing the officers’ interests in the negotiations with the government, said the vote was “a historic and important decision that brings justice to some 60,000 police and Prisons Service officers and pensioners and their families.”
But the decision saw vociferous opposition in the cabinet, leading Netanyahu to consider delaying the decision because he believed he may not have enough votes to pass the cut. Netanyahu and Kahlon stepped out of the cabinet meeting twice to confer before deciding to proceed with the vote.
Once it was clear the vote would be held, only three ministers out of 22 voted against: Welfare Minister Katz, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Culture Minister Miri Regev.
Katz warned that the cut would be felt in programs for at-risk women, and could lead “many women to slide into prostitution because we won’t have the funds to care for them.”
He protested that the government also planned to use the savings from the budget cut to fund the state’s share in the 2019 Eurovision song contest.
The framework approved by the cabinet would up the salaries of serving members of the security services in two strokes, the first in January 2019, and the second in January 2020. The retirement benefits of retirees will be raised to the level of IDF pensioners in January 2019.
SOURCE: TIMES OF ISRAEL