Mofaz: Defense Ministry paying c'tee back for budget cuts

Knesset FADC chair implies Barak taking revenge by not allowing use of IAF helicopter to survey security arrangements in South.

Shaul Mofaz 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Shaul Mofaz 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MK Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, implied on Thursday that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was taking revenge on the committee for not approving defense budget increases throughout the year.
The committee was notified by the Defense Ministry that it may not use an IAF helicopter to survey security arrangements in the South on Sunday.
Mofaz and other MKs planned to discuss with OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo, as well as other senior IDF officials, the operational response to growing threats from the Sinai Peninsula, as well as progress in constructing a barrier along the Egyptian border and the IDF’s move to the Negev.
The committee, under Mofaz’s leadership, released a statement on Thursday saying that “despite the importance of the trip, and the fact that it was planned in advance, the Defense Ministry told the committee that it does not plan to allow its members to use an IAF helicopter, unless the Knesset pays for the expense.”
The IAF flew Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee members on all previous workrelated trips to areas far from the Knesset, the statement reads.
“It is important to point out that, since MK Mofaz became the chairman of the subcommittee on the defense budget...there have been circumstances in which requests are not automatically authorized,” according to the statement. “The committee chairman has said in the past that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is not the Defense Ministry’s ‘rubber stamp.’” The Defense Ministry responded that “a tour of the South for Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee members was arranged and authorized, and as far as we are concerned, it can go on as planned.”
In addition, a ministry spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that a helicopter ride is very expensive, and therefore, requested that the committee pay for it.
“As is well known, the Defense Ministry is facing major budget cuts, and we have no doubt that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee would prefer that as much of our budget as possible would be dedicated to real security needs,” the spokesman added.
It is unusual that an MK who is not a member of the coalition would head the committee, perhaps a reason for the tension.