Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday decided to reduce proposed defense
cuts from NIS 4 billion to NIS 3b. clearing the way for the government to
approve Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s 2013- 2014 budget
“Yesterday, we sat until very late on the defense budget and I
decided to bring before the security cabinet and the full cabinet a decision
that moderates the proposed cut to the defense budget by NIS 1b., which will not
be at the public's expense,” the prime minister said at the start of Monday’s
Netanyahu plans to spend an extra billion shekels
without otherwise affecting the budget by dipping into the reserves,
discretionary funds set aside by law in each budget to allow the government
flexibility for unforeseen circumstances.
“I would like to make it clear
that the IDF – including its commanders, soldiers and weapons – is vital, in
both defense and offense, to Israelis' security,” Netanyahu said, adding that he
believed he had reached the right balance between security and economic
“The offensive front is clear. The defensive front is expanding to
include the entire home front, the entire State of Israel. And therefore, we
need the IDF to continue becoming more efficient, but we also need additional
Iron Dome [anti-missile] batteries.”
Defense officials will now have to
decide which military programs will be cut. With the budget for defense in 2014
set at NIS 51b., it appears likely that some training programs will be reduced.
Earlier fears that long-term purchases of military platforms could be delayed,
however, seem less acute.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor)
came out against the reductions in cuts, saying it was strange that the
government suddenly found a billion shekels in reserves to prevent defense
budget cuts, while they could not be found to prevent increasing VAT or cuts to
the Education or Welfare ministries.
“The finance minister must
immediately reveal what other ‘reserves’ the government has and explain his
order of priorities in how he uses them,” Yacimovich said.
original budget proposal had set aside NIS 8.7b. in reserves for 2013 and NIS
9.6b. reserves for 2014.
“Experience shows that time and again, in
practice, the Defense Ministry gets its budget back – not only what is cut, but
more than that, without any in-depth discussion,” the Labor chairwoman
“Here too, any pretense of new politics melted away, after Lapid
led his voters astray,” she said.
MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) also pointed
out that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised the extra billion shekels
would come from reserve funds.
“In the last year, we were told that the
economic situation is excellent and the deficit will only be NIS 18b., and the
prime minister said the deficit will not have a significant effect on Israeli
After the election, it turned out that the numbers they sold us
were wrong and the deficit is more than double – NIS 39b! Where is the truth,
Mr. Prime Minister?” Herzog asked at a Labor faction meeting.
chairwoman Zehava Gal- On said cabinet members wasted a day and a half on the
defense budget, deciding in the end to cut far less than is
“It’s bizarre that it took a day and a half to give in to the
Defense Ministry yet again, but it’s mostly unfortunate that the ministers are
wasting their time on a cut that won’t happen. Anyway, the connection between
the approved defense budget in the beginning of the year and the real expenses
of the security monster is weak,” she said.
NIS 10b. more than the
defense budget is spent on security in the average year, Gal-On said, and the
expenses are wasteful and lack transparency.
She accused the Defense
Ministry of “blackmailing the public with threats to empty the public’s
pockets,” and said if it does not stop, it won’t have a country to protect
Commenting on the day’s developments, Defense Minister Moshe
Ya’alon said Israel faced a complex economic situation, and “we in the defense
community are committed to carrying the burden and taking part in the effort to
end the large deficit that was created. We’re not a desert island.”
added that during negotiations, representatives of the defense community
insisted that the IDF would work according to a multi-year plan, beginning in
2014 and ending in 2018.
“Undoubtedly, changes are needed in military
force buildup, in light of the regional shake-up, and technological changes. The
defense industries provide us with tremendous capabilities. We’ll try not to
hurt the process aimed at strengthening the army... through spreading out
payments for projects over a longer period.”
President Shimon Peres, who
was supportive of the unpopular measures that Lapid wants to carry out to
stabilize the economy, told Israel Radio, when asked whether the defense budget
should be cut, that cuts can be made in every government ministry, but the
government must assess its priorities, and the most important of these is the
defense of the country.
Peres, a former defense minister, said he sees
soldiers risking their lives every day to keep the country safe, and they should
not have to suffer deprivation.Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this