Mofaz demands explanations before okaying defense funds

Joint Committee for the Defense Budget refuses to vote on NIS 700 million addition to defense budget.

Mofaz (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
The Knesset’s Joint Committee for the Defense Budget refused to vote Tuesday to approve an addition of NIS 700 million to that budget.
Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said he expected Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to explain personally before the committee the sources of the expanded budget, as well as the intended purposes of the additional funds.
Mofaz said he was concerned that the funding might come from the across-the- board cuts already proposed by the government, which were supposed to take into account tax income lost due to lowered gas, public transportation and water prices.
The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman also demanded to know why the addition was not included in the official budget, which was passed less than two months ago.
Mofaz’s concerns were not the only topic discussed Tuesday in closed-door meetings of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee subcommittees.
After a week’s delay, Defense Minister Ehud Barak appeared before the Subcommittee on Intelligence Affairs to explain the basis for his decision not to prolong the service of former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi (res.).
Ashkenazi, who was officially replaced by Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz on Monday, was known to have extremely cool relations with the defense minister, and in recent days, speculations have circulated regarding the basis for the poor dynamic between the two.
In the past, Barak hinted publicly that his reasons for not extending Ashkenazi’s term were “ethical and professional, at the highest level,” but he has not elaborated since.
Barak’s troubles at the Knesset, however, continued into the afternoon. Later Tuesday, veteran Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee member Arye Eldad (National Union) filed a letter of complaint with Civil Service Commissioner Ehud Prauer against Barak aide Ruth Bar, who, he said, had intentionally delayed handing over data to the Knesset’s Research and Information Center.
In the letter, Eldad said that for over a year and a half, he and fellow MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) had submitted repeated requests for data regarding enforcement of building and planning laws in the West Bank. Bar, he complained, had intentionally stonewalled the request for the data, which Eldad wishes to present before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.