The IDF must find a way to deal with an NIS 20 billion shortfall in the coming years, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said on Monday.

“In the 12 years that I have been at the General Staff, I don’t recall a time like this,” Gantz said, adding that the military has a team of some 250 people working on finding ways to save money.

“We are facing very serious gaps in the budget, gaps of some NIS 20b. We must reexamine all of the projects we are invested in,” Gantz said. “In light of the need to cut state expenditures, and considerations of our strategic threats, the IDF must take very large steps to save NIS 6b.-NIS 8b.”

Gantz, whose comments came in a speech at a conference held by the national manufacturers association in Tel Aviv, said that the instability in the region presents an opportunity to implement the changes, because with the rest of the region sidelined by internal struggles there is little chance Israel will find itself facing a conventional war in the coming few years.

“When I look at our future directions I understand that we must take great steps and take advantage of this period of time when the risk of an attack is not likely,” Gantz said, adding that the IDF “will try to deal as well as we can with the resource challenges facing us. We live in a challenging environment and every day can end entirely differently than it started.”

Gantz also related to two incidents from last week in which haredi soldiers were attacked in haredi neighborhoods, saying “It’s a paradox that a soldier must leave his house and be prepared to be attacked,” adding that “this thuggery has no place in progressive society and must be stopped.”

Gantz’s comments on Monday were his first about the expected budget cuts that the IDF first announced last week.

Under the cuts, over the next five years the IDF will fire 3,000 to 5,000 career soldiers, and downsize or close flight squadrons, armored and artillery units, and naval deployments. The cuts, which still need to be approved by the cabinet, are expected to save NIS 6b.-NIS 7b, according to IDF calculations.

Last Thursday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) put a positive spin on the cuts, saying they will help the army deal with the changing nature of the threats facing Israel.

“We are not enslaved to technology – we are using it and adapting it to the new reality, whereas the army vs army conflicts that we last saw 40 years ago in the Yom Kippur War are becoming less and less relevant.”

Ya’alon’s speech emphasized the push for hi-tech, sophisticated weaponry, saying that “the foreseeable future stands to lead us to battles which will be determined by superior IDF technology, in the air, land and sea, with less heavy tools and through more and increasing use of sophisticated and unmanned technology which give us a significant advantage over any enemy.”

He also said the IDF will continue to work to preserve its technological advantages in the region, largely by focusing on the “building blocks” of this approach: precision ammunition, cyber defense, communication, and intelligence.

“We stand before a revolutionary multi-year plan, and within a few years we will see a different IDF,” the defense minister said.

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