Steinitz rejects budget criticism

Finance Minister: I view myself as a security hawk.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
July 16, 2010 14:54
4 minute read.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

steinitz 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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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.

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.

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"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 Israel."

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 Israel Radio.

"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 funding.]"

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 government."

Shas, Labor 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.

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