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Netanyahu and Israel’s supporters pass a new budget that includes generous funds for settlements and ultra-Orthodoxy

The new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies have passed a $17.5 billion budget that includes sweeping grants for settlements, ultra-Orthodox schools and religious services.

The budget, which was overwhelmingly approved in a late night vote on Sunday, includes $250 million for settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as a $2.5 billion increase in military spending – 17.2% more than the 2020 budget.

In addition, the budget includes $360 million to bolster the education system in the ultra-Orthodox sector, $120 million for religious services and an additional $30 million for settlements in outlying east Jerusalem neighborhoods.

The budget’s passage has been marred by Israel’s decision to cut off funding to several agencies and projects aimed at advancing the peace process. This includes $6.3 million that was allocated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The budget also calls for cuts in welfare benefits to unemployed Arabs and Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, raising questions about the government’s commitment to advance social equity and inclusion.

Despite these cuts, the budget includes additional funding for joint Israeli-Palestinian projects, including $12 million for Negev development, $15 million for projects in Hebron and $30 million for Jewish-Arab initiatives.

The budget’s passage marks a key milestone for Netanyahu’s government, which has now passed the first major test since forming a coalition in May. With the budget finally in place, the government can now move forward with its other agenda items.