IDF faces near-shutdown come April 1

Due to cuts to defense budget, Gantz tells officers they'll need to reduce training exercises at start of April.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz_390 (photo credit: Ori Shifrin/IDF Spokesman)
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz_390
(photo credit: Ori Shifrin/IDF Spokesman)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz has ordered unit commanders to begin preparing for a near-shutdown of the military in two months due to a continued standoff with the Treasury over the defense budget.
On Monday, Gantz and Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen. Yair Naveh convened the top IDF brass – officers with the rank of colonel and higher – for an annual gathering to discuss Israel’s strategic challenges for the coming year.
During the meeting, Gantz told the hundreds of officers who were present they would need to cut back on training exercises starting April 1. In addition, the IDF was planning a major cutback in reservist training over the next year.
“We are cancelling all kinds of exercises, from the division level down to the battalion level,” a senior IDF officer who was at the meeting said on Tuesday. “We will not be able to call up reserves, and even when we hold exercises we will be limited in the amount of ammunition we can use.”
Last month, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided not to cut the defense budget, and even agreed to a one-time supplement of NIS 3 billion. Nevertheless, the IDF claims it is short NIS 4b., and will need to dramatically cut back on training and ammunition in order to fund new development and procurement programs.
In addition to the possible stop in training, the Defense Ministry has decided to suspend all future orders of Merkava tanks and Namer armored personnel carriers (APC).
“There are a number of strategic projects that will be harmed due to the lack of funds,” a defense official said Tuesday.
The Namer is based on the Merkava MK4 and is claimed to have a high level of reinforced steel protection. The decision to develop the new APC was made after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, during which IDF armor suffered heavy losses to Hezbollah anti-tank missiles.
Other projects that could be affected are the Iron Dome antirocket defense system and further development of David’s Sling and Arrow-3, two longer-ranged missile defense systems.
The officials said Gantz and Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani were scheduled to meet with Netanyahu in the coming weeks in an effort to obtain additional funding that would enable the military to continue implementing its multi-year procurement plan.
Called Halamish, the plan is aimed at upgrading the IDF’s ground forces, improving its strategic capabilities with the procurement of additional F-35 stealth fighter jets, and boosting Israel’s cyber capabilities.