Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Finance Ministry on Tuesday rejected Defense Minister Ehud Barak's calls for a new budget that would take into account defense needs as well as the demands of social justice protesters.
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"The defense minister's proposal will enslave the State of Israel in a future of tremendous debt, and endanger its economic stability," a Finance Ministry statement read.
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"One of the central principles which stabilized Israel is a policy of fiscal responsibility and preservation of budgetary limits. At the present time, in the face of the financial crisis in the US and Europe, Israel must preserve this economic policy," the statement added.
“Israel dealt with the economic crisis and managed to return to growth thanks to the economic policy of the government and finance ministry, which emphasized budgetary discipline. Populist suggestions that we break with the budget are likely to lead to economic deterioration and to mass unemployment,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz added in a statement.
Barak on Tuesday called for a new, expanded budget which does not cut defense, in the wake of a summer of popular protests calling for socioeconomic reform.
During a Knesset Finance Committee meeting, Barak said that while investing in such reform is important, it should not come at the expense of the defense budget.
"We will not succeed in filling the minimal demands for the State of
Israel to responsibly take care of defense and the demands of the social
protest and the world recession. There is no way to do this within the
current budget," Barak stated. "I do not claim to be omniscient, but
from what I understand, we should increase the budget," he added.
The defense minister said that the Arab Spring and upheaval in the
Middle East was bringing about changes that were difficult to predict.
"This brings complex security challenges and increases the threats that
we recognize today: Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran behind
Barak stated that the events of the past year have lead "to the
conclusion that there can be situations in which the State of Israel
will have to guard its interests on its own, without leaning necessarily
on regional or other forces for help."
He said that "Israel is the strongest state in the Middle East, from
Tripoli to Tehran, including Tehran, and will continue to be so if we
continue to be responsible."
Kadima, who has also issued calls for a new 2012 budget, submitted a request to the Knesset House Committee to expedite legislation to that end on Tuesday.
The faction emphasized in the request that " cosmetic changes will not suffice to give a real answer to the demands for social justice."
"The Knesset must vote on a new budget that reflects new priorities which will answer the social and economic crises in Israel," Kadima added.
The Knesset Committee for Legislation was expected to give the government's opinion on the Kadima request at its upcoming meeting on Sunday, Kadima said in a statement.Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.