Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s appointee to serve as the next chief-of-staff
seemed on easy track for political approval Monday, but another recent Barak
decision – to acquire 20 futuristic airplanes from the United States – has hit
the shoals following Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s demand that the
government reconsider the $ 2.7 billion deal.
reported by Army Radio, is likely to be heeded by the government, in which case
a discussion will be held. The proposal to acquire the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
was first announced last week.
The funds for the airplane, considered to
be one of the two best fighters currently manufactured, would be drawn from US
military aid funds for Israel, and not from Israeli tax dollars. But during the
Sunday government meeting, Steinitz drew parallels between the airplane’s costs
and the total package subsidized by the government to revitalize Israeli higher
The cost of the entire educational reform, Steinitz stressed,
was less than the cost of the 20 airplanes.
Steinitz objected that such a
financially significant decision was made where no government minister was
consulted other than Barak. The plane, Steinitz protested, would include
numerous hidden costs for Israel beyond the American aid, including the cost of
training flight crews. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu listened to Steinitz’s
criticism and reportedly told the finance minister the decision would be
discussed, but in a smaller forum than the 39-member government.
airplane’s American manufacturer, defense giant Lockheed- Martin, had reportedly
blocked Israel from installing Israeli-made systems on the aircraft, which would
be Israel’s first stealth-equipped fighter. In any event, Barak had reportedly
planned to bring the deal for final approval to the security cabinet in the
According to the schedule presented for the airplane’s
acquisition, delivery is expected to begin in 2015, over the course of
approximately two years.