The Defense Ministry will only get additional funding if it streamlines its operations, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday.
“We must differentiate between defense and the defense budget,” Bennett said at the Calcalist National Conference in Tel Aviv. “If they become more efficient, they’ll get more. If they don’t become more efficient, they won’t get more.”
The Defense Ministry has requested an extraordinary NIS 11 billion boost for 2015, above and beyond the costs of rearming and paying for Operation Protective Edge. Finance Ministry budget director Amir Levy said Tuesday that it was an unrealistic amount to request. The sum represents nearly 1 percent of the country’s GDP, and a nearly 20 percent increase over the current defense budget.
Bennett sharply criticized Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for failing to reform the ministry’s operations, saying that it had squandered a full year without carrying out the recommended changes. The ministry, which has little oversight from the Treasury, has been accused of failing to cut back exorbitant pensions and salaries and “trimming the fat,” as other ministries have had to do. The burden to prove that every shekel being spent was going to improve defense, therefore, fell on the Defense Ministry, Bennett said.
“If it really goes to defense, you’ll get [money]. If there are uncomfortable decisions you simply put off until later, you won’t get [money],” he added.
Speaking later at the same conference, Ya’alon skirted the reform issue entirely, but argued that the growing instability in the Middle East requires more defense spending. In Syria, for example, instead of gathering intelligence on just the government, there were 30 organizations running around that needed to be understood.
That costs money.
Similarly, creating more precise weapons, advancing further defense technology such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system and developing better methods to avoid civilian casualties all require funding as well.
While things such as education are important, and even crucial to ensure Israel’s technological edge in the future, “at the end, you have to find the right balance of how to the slice up the cake,” Ya’alon said.