At the outset of an unusual cabinet meeting on a multi-year defense budget plan, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday Israel must address the historical changes taking place in the Middle East while prioritizing defense needs.
"The threats directed at the State of Israel are changing and we need to be prepared for that," Netanyahu said. "We need to ensure that the security Israeli citizens have enjoyed in the past three-and-a-half years continues through the changing conditions."
The discussion, he continued, is about prioritizing components of the defense budget in Israel's long-term defense planning, not about nitpicking over every clause or cent in the budget.
The cuts, he said, were necessary in order to "move forward" on the 2013 budget.
Netanyahu said that the ministers would be asked not only to decide how much to spend on defense, but also to decide "where to invest the money."
Observers noted that Netanyahu hopes that by getting members of the full cabinet to decide where the money will go for security, they will be less reticent down the line when they will be asked to make cuts in their own ministries to pay for the defense expenses.
Netanyahu said that the decisions made will have consequences for the next decade.
Netanyahu characterized the meeting as a "unique discussion" that usually takes place once every five years in a smaller forum, and that at a certain point this discussion might also be reduced to a smaller number of ministers.
But, he said, "I would like all ministers, to the best of our abilities, be party to the decisions that I think will greatly determine the government's budget for the State of Israel." He said the discussion will not likely be completed in one day.