Bennett: Freeze defense funds until reservists paid

Economy and trade minister slams decision to cut reservists' grants due to high cost of Operation Pillar of Defense call-up.

April 18, 2013 12:49
1 minute read.
Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett speaking at Ramla conference, April 2, 2013.

Naftali Bennett at Ramla conference 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Ramla conference)

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett called on the Knesset Finance Committee to freeze the transfer of all funds to the defense establishment on Thursday after the IDF decreased the yearly grants it allocates to reserve soldiers on Wednesday.

The IDF's decision to decrease the grants came following a budget-breaking call-up of combat reserve soldiers during Operation Pillar of Defense last year.

Bennett turned to Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) and requested that he hold all transfers of funds to the defense establishment until the reservists' grants are reinstated in full.

"Rather than kissing their (IDF reservists) feet, they are playing around with their grants," Channel 10 quoted Bennett as saying of the decision. "By any means necessary they will receive every cent. It is unacceptable that because they were called up during Operation Pillar of Defense they will receive less," he said during meetings with Treasury officials.

Following Bennett's call, Slomiansky said that the committee would hold an emergency meeting on the reservists' grants next week.

Slomiansky called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene on behalf of the reservists and said that he would indeed freeze funding to the defense establishment if the grant reduction was not canceled, Israel Radio reported.

Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, who is also a member of the Knesset Finance Committee said that the committee would recommend allocating the necessary funds to keep the grants fully intact.

Soldiers qualify for one of four re-compensation categories, according to the number of days served in the reserves.

The IDF Spokesman Unit said the sums earmarked for reserve soldiers remain at 300 million shekels per year. However, due to high call up of soldiers this year, "more reserve days will have to be fulfilled" to qualify for the same sums in 2013.

An army source added that a special reserves budget determines the extent of changes to funding programs.

"The larger the budget... the more it will be possible to re-compensate the reserves without changes," the source said.

A spokesman from Bennett's office said Wednesday that he had requested an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss the reservists' grants.

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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