Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday said that the Defense Ministry should share the burden of fiscal cuts despite ongoing threats to Israel.
“Nobody thinks there isn't fat to cut from the Defense Department,” Bennett said at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting as the cabinet met over the budget.
“I know the threats against Israel are real threats, but for 65 years Israel is under threat – first it was Nasser, then Saddam Hussein, then Nassrallah,” he said. “It’s not an economic discussion but a discussion of values,” he said.The cabinet on Sunday discussed the NIS 4 billion in planned cuts to the defense budget
ahead of a Monday vote on Finance Minister Yair Lapid's budget proposal
Bennett defended Lapid’s budget, saying that although it didn’t address the primary problems of the Israeli economy, it was the first step in a series of planned reforms. “I know we didn’t touch the ports, the public sector—and there are still places to make the private sector more efficient—the electric corporation. But in 45 days you can't solve the problems of 65 years.”
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee for Human Resources and Training chairman Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) also called for Lapid to cut the defense budget.
"Our power is the man in the tank and not just the tank. Therefore, I suggest that the Finance Minister, Prime Minister and Defense Minister help the man in the tank win and cut the defense budget," Bar-Lev said on Sunday. "Not in a reckless and drastic way, and without harming the IDF's 'long arm,' which is important in facing the Iranian threat, but other things, and not just the fat, can be cut."
Bar-Lev added that a strong society is just as important as national security and the home front's strength is worth that of an additional armored division.
"A strong society is one with equal education for all, good health services in the periphery like in the center, and where citizens can enjoy reasonable housing without needing to invest most of their income in it for most of their lives," he said.
MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), also on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee, said that defense budget cuts are one of the few things for which Lapid can be congratulated.
Yesh Atid Faction Chairman Ofer Shelah, pointed out on Friday that if the NIS 4 billion defense budget cut is not authorized, "the missing money will have to come from somewhere else," and the Finance Ministry will have to cut "where it can, not where it needs to be done."
However, Shelah wrote on Facebook, if the defense ministry cuts in manpower, pensions, and projects that do not fit with real security needs, then the Finance Ministry will be able to put money back in places that were cut by 2015.