The Trajtenberg Report is alive and well, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said
on Wednesday, in response to accusations by MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) that a
last-minute NIS 1.67 billion increase in the defense budget killed social
A joint meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee, which Mofaz chairs, and the Finance Committee approved the addition
on Wednesday afternoon, hours after it was approved by the government. The
increase was drawn from the budgetary surpluses (unspent funds) of other
Defense to receive NIS 780m. at expense of other ministries
Barak: Cutting defense budget will hurt security
Later in the day, Netanyahu addressed criticism of the
expanded defense budget, saying it would allow the Defense Ministry to give a
proper response to new challenges brought on by the US withdrawal from Iraq,
upheaval in the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear threat.
minister said the world economic crisis and the instability in the Middle East
had created “tension” between the government’s economic and security
Therefore, he explained, the government must behave
responsibly, balancing the budget while defending Israeli
“There is no defense without a good economy,” Netanyahu
“Defense costs a lot of money.”
Following Mofaz’s statement
that the findings of the Trajtenberg Committee on Socioeconomic Change had been
“buried,” Netanyahu said: “Don’t eulogize the Trajtenberg Report
The prime minister explained that the chapters of the report were
being passed one by one, allowing for ministers and MKs to discuss them and
recommend changes. The chapters on taxes and government efficiency had already
passed, and those on housing and education were on the government’s agenda, he
During Wednesday’s meeting, all coalition MKs present voted for the
budget increase, while Mofaz and MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) opposed the
According to Mofaz, this was the first time the joint committee
on the defense budget was asked to approve such a large sum so close to the
December 31 deadline.
Mofaz called the move “improper,” and explained
that he had asked Netanyahu to bring it to a ministerial vote before the Knesset
could make a decision.
“Why aren’t budgetary surpluses used to take care
of social problems that were protested by citizens last summer?” Mofaz asked.
“The government must find the proper balance between social and security needs,
and the public should know exactly where the additions to the defense budget
He added that the government had made it clear that it
preferred the defense budget over social justice.
“This coalition has no
heart or compassion,” Mofaz said.
MK Einat Wilf, chairwoman of Defense
Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence faction, said that most government ministries
acted responsibly, which is why they had budgetary surpluses. However, she
explained, the Defense Ministry tended to take spending risks because it knew
its commitments would be covered when it asked for additional
According to MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), this was not an unusual
occurrence. Almost every year, some government ministries did not use all of the
funds allocated by the Finance Ministry, and whatever was left over was
transferred to those that needed it.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin
(Likud) and Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah
Judaism) said they agreed with Vaknin, adding that if the money was not sent to
the Defense Ministry, it would go back to the Finance Ministry, and everyone
MK Uri Ariel (National Union), however, said that it seemed
as if the government was “behaving in a way that borders on deception and
The largest budgetary surpluses transferred to the
Defense Ministry are NIS 124,993,000 from pensions and NIS 113,600,000 from the
National Insurance Institute. The ministry with the largest surplus going to
defense is the Welfare Ministry, with NIS 69,765.
A government spokesman
said the funding transfer was a standard maneuver that took place every year. He
said it was approved by a ministerial committee that did not include the
ministers who have publicly criticized the move.
Gil Hoffman contributed
to this report.