Knesset Approves Economic Arrangements Bill

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Following an 18-hour filibuster by the opposition, the Knesset passed the government's Economic Arrangements bill, 63-45, on Tuesday evening.

Kadima party MKs (members of Knesset), under chairwoman Tzipi Livni, led the filibuster, taking the podium one after another to deliver their speeches before a partially empty plenum.

By 1 a.m., only Kadima members remained, though MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List - Ta'al) joined them at 3 a.m. in his capacity as deputy chairman of the Knesset.

Following the filibuster, parliamentarians voted on the bill clause by clause, a process that took an additional 12 hours.

Labor MKs Shelly Yacimovich, Eitan Cabel, Ofer Pines-Pax and Amir Peretz - referred to as the party's rebels for their opposition to party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak - voted against key clauses in the bill, with Yacimovich voting against the entire bill.

About two months ago, Yacimovich had posted the bill on her Web site, asking her readership for input as she began examining the contents clause by clause, The Jerusalem Post reported.

"You cannot vote on the arrangements bill in its entirety, as it is monstrous in size," Yacimovich said on Monday, claiming it was drafted "off the cuff and betrays the public's trust."

Cabel said the same Labor MKs who led the filibuster will "abstain or not be present" for Wednesday's vote on the 2009-2010 state budget.

Kadima spokesman Shmulik Dahan criticized the "cruelty of the budget and its impact on the weaker sectors of society."

Unlike the marathon filibuster, the final debate and vote on the state budget is expected to be completed in an estimated 12 hours.

Sources: Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post

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