February 22, 2024

During the past week, the citizens of Israel were captivated by their TV screens, eagerly observing the poignant images of women and children hostages returning from captivity in Gaza. The nation was focused on this event, with little mind to spare on political matters. Night after night, the entire country watched with anticipation and excitement as the hostages who had been held since October 7 finally made their way back home. The live footage of women and children reuniting with their families brought much-needed relief to the nation, in a moment that overshadowed the usual political squabbling.

Despite ongoing war with Hamas, the government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, approved a wartime budget that primarily served its own interests. This budget catered to the needs of coalition partners, including the settlers and haredim, and failed to reflect the economic priorities promised after the October 7 massacre. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Moshe Gafni, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, delayed funds earmarked for Gaza border communities to prioritize this politically motivated budget, despite warnings from the Bank of Israel and senior staff at the Finance Ministry.

Following a tragic agreement with Benny Gantz and other National Unity Party members after the October 7 attacks, a government crisis emerged. Although Gantz and his associates joined the government to contribute to wartime issues, they found themselves at odds with the budget, which they believed should be redirected to the war effort. Their attempts to negotiate a more balanced allocation of coalition funds failed, and the budget passed by an overwhelming majority, overshadowed by the news of hostages returning from Gaza. Despite these challenges, Gantz and his party remain committed to remaining within the government to address wartime concerns, even at a political cost.