Israeli Budget Passes 1st Knesset Reading

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The 2013-2014 State budget passed its first reading Monday night by a 58-44 vote.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid told legislators the "vision of the working man" is the basis for the decisions that went into it.

Lapid said the budget is aimed at "letting go of the culture of welfare and introducing a culture of labor," turning the problem of addressing the deficit into an opportunity with potential to expand the job market and distribute the burden among all sectors of society.

The finance minister said the budget addressed problems such as bureaucratic red tape and the cost of housing, while adding funding for education, health, care for Holocaust survivors and integrating the ultra-Orthodox into the job market.

Lapid said successful people should be praised, not "persecuted by jealousy and discouragement."

"We want successful businessmen. We want entrepreneurs. We want people who open businesses. We want big international corporations to come here and open factories," he said.

After his presentation, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovitch, head of the socialist Labor Party, tore into Lapid, accusing him of "theatrics" and labeling the budget a declaration of war against 99 percent of Israelis.

Yacimovich said the opposition would continue battling for the people.

The bill now goes to the finance committee, where revisions are expected before its second and third readings.

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