Israel’s parliament approved its 2005 budget in the eleventh hour Tuesday night, averting a statutory end to the Sharon government and new elections.
Passage of the budget also removed the final obstacle to the planned unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Opponents of the pullout plan had tried to prevent passage of the budget as a way of sidelining the pending evacuation of all Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip and four in the Samaria region of post-1967 territories.
Passage of the budget was not cheap. Ariel Sharon spent hundreds of millions of shekels wheedling support from the various political factions.
Sharon now faces a struggle to find funding to create new ministerial and deputy ministerial positions to use as rewards for those who supported him in the budget fight.