Party leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer vowed today that Labor will support the government in its efforts to cut the budget, despite earlier demands of changes to the economic proposals.
Ben-Eliezer met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon earlier today, Wednesday, to discuss Labor's position on the emergency economic plan compiled by the Finance Ministry. The plan will be going through its second and third stages of voting in parliament today.
Although Ben-Eliezer had voiced reservations about cuts to child allowances, the party leader decided to throw his clout behind the budget bill, apparently due to the escalation in violence Wednesday morning.
At least 17 people were killed early Wednesday morning and dozens more were hurt after a car bomb plowed into a crowded bus at the Megiddo intersection in northern Israel.
Ben-Eliezer's reversal has sparked criticism in party circles. Former finance minister Avraham Shochat said that Ben-Eliezer did not have the authority to make such a decision on his own.
On Tuesday evening Labor had advised Likud, the party Sharon heads, that it would not support a 24% cut to child allowances for families in which the family head had not served in the army. Instead, Labor suggested cutting all child allowances, up to the fourth child, regardless of parental army service - by 10%. After the fourth child, Labor suggested cutting the allowance by 15%.
Another idea Labor raised was to grant flat child allowances for each child, regardless of family size.
Likud rejected all these ideas.
In private conversations, the prime minister fumed at the Labor reversal yesterday. He reportedly said he'd push the economic plan through parliament "with or without Fuad" ¿ Ben-Eliezer's nickname. The sorry situation of the economy demands it, Sharon said.