Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz appeared on Channel 2's Friday night news magazine Ulpan Shishi to defend the cuts implemented in the government's 2011-2012 budget.
RELATED:Defense budget cut by NIS 2.7 billionIDF protests budget cuts, requests NIS 55
Steinitz was particularly defensive about the NIS 2.7 billion cut to the Defense Ministry's budget and stated his strong support for national security needs.
"I view myself as a security hawk...We will continue to diligently protect the security of the State and give [additional] resources to health and education," said Steinitz.
Steinitz added, "I was one who spoke out against cuts in the defense budget. I have changed my mind."
The government approved a new two-year budget on Friday, sparking reactions from figures in both the coalition and the opposition.
At the budget meeting, 20 ministers voted in favor, while five Israel Beiteinu ministers voted against, four Shas ministers abstained and one was absent, after Minister of Welfare Isaac Herzog left the meeting early.
Many opposed the NIS 2.7 billion cut in the defense budget, while others felt it did not contribute enough to welfare needs.
Steinitz defended the budget saying, "The government approved a professional budget, which balances the different needs of the market. After years in which the security budget received significant additions, which strengthened the military, the government has chosen to give these additions to the education budget, health and welfare."
"My mission is that the coming years will bring a shrinking of social gaps by strengthening the weaker sectors," Steinitz added. "The 2011-2012 budget will allow the government to plan for the long term and will strengthen the stability and security in the market."
"We made a difficult decision, taking into consideration the economic and social situation in Israel," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "There are consequences to this decision, and I show them to the cabinet."
Barak added that he hopes the IDF can "stand before the challenges in
the resources budgeted to us. The balance between the security budget
and the other budgets can bring us to deal correctly with the security
and social challenges in Israel."
The IDF released a statement thanking Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and the finance minister for taking into consideration the IDF's needs,
especially in connection to career military officers. One of the
budget's clauses was raising the age of retirement for career officers
who are not technological specialists or combatants to 50.
Netanyahu said that "the budget we compiled today is a responsible and
balanced budget, that grants stability to the Israeli economy for the
next two years."
"The public in every country pays for going over the budget and
unchecked spending," the prime minister explained. "It may not be clear
when a government goes over the budget, but we see what happened in some
European countries. We can't let such irresponsibility happen in
The prime minister added: "Naturally, we can't meet every need, even
though many are legitimate and important, but a leader's job is to weigh
priorities and make decisions."Israel
Beiteinu walks out of budget meeting
Ministers from Israel Beiteinu reportedly stormed out of Friday's budget
meeting, threatening to vote against the budget, due to the cut in
defense spending. According to reports, Foreign Minister and head of
Israel Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, has previously threatened that his
party would vote against Netanyahu-led decisions.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch expressed disappointment
that his office's budget was cut by NIS 700 million in an interview with
"If the government doesn't fund the office, Israeli society will be
harmed," Aharonovitch said. "There is a need to strengthen the police
and the prison service. The ministry can't be run [without additional
Aharonovitch also protested his party's treatment in the government
meeting. "Israel Beiteinu is the senior partner [in the coalition], but
we're treated otherwise. I say to the government and to the prime
minister: we'll meet in the Knesset. We're voting against the budget -
it will not pass!"
Minister of Absorption Sofa Landver, also of Israel Beiteinu, released a
statement slamming the government.
"This is the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel
that aliyah is not on the government's agenda," Landver said. "The
suggested budget is directly harming the absorption and encouragement of
aliyah. I call upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to get involved,
because he said that absorption of olim is a priority for our
protest cut in welfare funds
Shas ministers announced Friday morning that they will abstain from
budget voting following the freeze of welfare funds. Interior Minister
Eli Yishai announced that he will fight in the Knesset for the increase
in welfare funds.
Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog from the Labor party also criticized the
freeze on welfare funds Thursday, and left Friday's government meeting
in anger, before voting began.
The allocation of NIS 1.4 billion to the Ministry of Transportation and
NIS 55 million to the Ministry of Culture in the next three years was
also approved Friday morning in negotiations between the Ministry of
theTreasury and various government offices.