IDF protests budget cuts, requests NIS 55 billion

Ashkenazi emphasizes damage done by underfunding armed forces.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
July 7, 2010 05:17
2 minute read.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi

ashkenazi GOOD 311. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

 
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Anticipating the Finance Ministry announcement regarding cuts in the coming defense budget, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi went on the offensive Tuesday morning, emphasizing to members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the damage done by underfunding the armed forces, while playing up organizational streamlining and efficiency within the army.

Ashkenazi, together with IDF budget maven Brig.-Gen.

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Maharan Frozenfar, emphasized that the IDF was not requesting a budget increase, but rather asking that the Treasury uphold the 2007 Brodet agreement, considered by the IDF to be a binding formula for calculating the defense budget.

The coming budget, according to that formula, should be NIS 55 billion, which according to defense officials is more than the Finance Ministry is willing to provide.

Frozenfar presented data drawn from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Treasury to support his argument that the IDF had become more streamlined and efficient, but was discriminated against, budget-wise.

Between 2000-2010, he said, the Public Security Ministry’s budget increased by 78 percent, the health budget increased by 44.4%, and the security budget by a mere 34.6%.

The IDF, the officers complained, paid astronomical property taxes to local governments and paid fuel duties from which private industries such as ZIM were exempted. In the recent budgetary period following Operation Cast Lead, the IDF was also forced to pay NIS 40 million in compensation to the United Nations.

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Meanwhile, said Frozenfar, the IDF had trimmed personnel expenses by changing systems of retention and pensions for IDF longtime employees, and by reducing by 40% the number of civilians employed. The average salary in the IDF, he said, is now 10% lower on average than in the rest of the public sector.

“We are thin, but it is sexy to attack us. The fat one, which is the rest of the public sector, isn’t touched,” complained Ashkenazi.

He added that if the Finance Ministry took the same steps taken by the IDF to reduce personnel costs, it would save NIS 40 billion.

Ashkenazi complained that the budgetary demands of the proposed security fence to block border infiltrators from the Sinai were not backed up by operational utility. He argued that the project, which carries a price tag of over a billion shekels, would not prevent infiltrations, because once refugees and work-seekers crossed the fence, IDF soldiers would not shoot the civilians.

And although Ashkenazi noted significant advances in home front preparedness, including the expected operational use of two Iron Dome batteries in the south in September, he added that, due to lack of budget, there were insufficient numbers of gas masks to be able to provide all Israeli citizens and residents with them.

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