Barak blames Steinitz for defense budget dispute

“The US is watching the public debate about transparency in the budget, and it’s not helping the state,” Finance C'tee chairman Gafni says.

December 9, 2011 03:31
2 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Defense Minister Ehud Barak continued to slam Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for calling for increased supervision of the defense budget, leading Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) to call on Thursday for the ministers to end their battle.

“The US is watching the public debate about transparency in the budget, and it’s not helping the state,” Gafni said.

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In recent weeks, Steinitz has publicly called for a lower and more transparent defense budget, which Barak has rejected.

On Thursday, during a Finance Committee meeting, Barak said that his ministry must be free to manage its own budget, and he will not allow the Finance Ministry to intervene in matters of defense.

“I’m responsible for the security of Israel’s citizens, and I am not prepared to fail. If we give the Treasury the right to veto our decisions, it will directly influence our security,” Barak explained.

Barak also said that Defense Ministry decisions can take years to implement, while other must be made immediately, making it difficult to report to the Finance Ministry as thoroughly as other ministries do.

“The Defense Ministry’s DNA is problematic,” ministry director-general Udi Shani explained in the meeting.

“When we have an ad hoc mission [that increases spending], it does not mean that we decrease training or stop longterm purchases and products.”

At the same time, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) told the Defense Ministry that it is “constantly breaking the law,” for not sending detailed expense reports to the Finance Ministry about changes of over NIS 30 million.

“Saying that this is your DNA is not a good enough excuse,” he added.

Defense Ministry accountant- general Tzachi Malach essentially said that the ministry’s methods make full transparency impossible. He explained that he’s unable to supervise IDF funds before they are used, and authorizes spending only after it happens.

At times, Malach said, this leads to the ministry’s spending going beyond its budget.

Malach added that this method, which allows for “risk management,” is the source of conflict between the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry.

However, Barak disagreed with Malach, saying that Steinitz is the source of conflict, and that the finance minister is ridiculing the public and the Finance Committee.

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