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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz warned Monday that if the defense budget is not increased beyond the current NIS 35 billion, there would be no choice but to reduce the IDF's manpower.
"It's unthinkable that following the Lebanon war, we have to weigh tanks against poor people and cannons against senior citizens," Peretz told the Knesset Finance Committee, adding that defense and social spending should not be considered mutually exclusive.
"If the defense slice of the national budget cake stays within the NIS 35b. limit, there is no doubt that in coming years we will need to reduce personnel quotas so that we will have fewer well-trained soldiers rather than more untrained ones," he said.
Late Sunday night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to add NIS 1.9b. in defense spending. Treasury sources said the decision would likely result in significant cutbacks to other ministries. As a result, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson will have to cut at least NIS 600 million from the 2007 state budget and refuse demands from coalition MKs for spending increases, the sources said.
The Knesset is expected to approve the budget by the December 31 deadline. Yedid, the Association for Community Empowerment, which runs citizens' rights centers for low-income, said additional cuts would mainly affect the poor.
The NIS 35b. figure does not include NIS 8b. that was previously approved to restore the IDF's operational capability following the war in Lebanon this summer.
The Defense Ministry plans to use the additional funds to increase training at all levels - battalion, brigade and division. The money will also be used to buy ordinance to refill military storehouses that were emptied during the war, including 155mm. shells.
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