FM warns against funding social programs with defense funds

Lieberman says all recent protesters have legitimate grievances, but rapid changes would "shock the system," hurt the poor, middle class; not all demands can be dealt with at once: four or five can be prioritized.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, JPOST.COM STAFF
August 7, 2011 14:01
2 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman [file]

Foreign Minsiter Avigdor Lieberman 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Uriel Sinai)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday addressed the concerns of growing social and housing protests that saw over 300,000 people take to the streets Saturday. The foreign minister said that everyone's grievance is legitimate but that there are only so many resources available, warning against moving funding away from the defense sector.

Referring to the various protests taking place in Israel in recent months, Lieberman said, "Everyone is right: farmers, teachers, social workers, police." The question, he said, is what to do with all of those claims.

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The protests themselves, Lieberman said, are "a sign that the problems are real.

It's not only those who are protesting, "it's also their supporters at home." The demonstrations are "not Woodstock."

The problem, he said, "is that the issues weren't dealt with before. Many ministers talked about these issues long before the protests, but the bureaucracy is stronger than the ministers."

However, "not all the demands [being made] are justified. It must be decided what is possible and what is not."

Four or five clear items must be chosen to deal with in spite of the budgetary limitations. The rest of the demands, he said, will have to be dealt with the next time around.

Four to five thousand housing units can be built in the Negev and the Galilee as "the most immediate solution," adding that public housing must be built for those who cannot find solutions in the free market.

The Housing Committees Bill, Lieberman said, "was the right decision."

Warning against shifting too many resources from one area to another, he said, "We shouldn't shock the system. If we don, the first to be harmed will be the lowest sectors of the population and the middle class."

The foreign minister said that the cost of repaying Israel's debt is the highest per capita in the world, something which he said was due to the Iranian threat. "It's not theoretical and it can't be ignored."

There may be waste in the Defense Ministry budget "but it is wrong to cut the defense budget," he said.

Speaking about welfare programs such as education subsidies, Lieberman said that IDF soldiers must be given preference over those who did not serve, noting his party's proposed legislation to those ends. On that specific issue, "We won't concede or compromise."

The housing crisis, the foreign minister said, should be solved by building 1,000 public housing units a year and promote building in the Negev and Galilee.

Yisrael Beiteinu, he reminded, "controls the settlement division of the Jewish Agency." Building in those areas, Lieberman said, doesn't require a planning committee.


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