PM promises to solve defense budget debacle

Decision to close Home Front Defense Ministry was not personal, Netanyahu tells Knesset.

SOLDIERS SIT atop a tank as they watch the border with Syria near Quneitra (photo credit: REUTERS)
SOLDIERS SIT atop a tank as they watch the border with Syria near Quneitra
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will decide whether or not to increase the defense budget in the coming weeks, he told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud Beytenu) said the budget crisis is severe and requires the prime minister's personal involvement as "the responsible adult."
Elkin also pointed out that Security Cabinet decisions about the budget were not enacted, which could harm the IDF's continued functionality, training and plans.
After listening to complaints from the committee's MKs about the ministries' behavior on the matter, Netanyahu announced that he will make a decision in the coming weeks.
In recent weeks, the Finance Ministry and Defense Ministry publicly sparred over the budget, with the former saying it cannot give more money and the latter saying it cannot properly defend the country with limited funds.
The Defense Ministry asked for a NIS 57.6 billion in 2014, but but the Finance Ministry gave it NIS 51 billion.
The latest cutback came last week, when the IDF announced that it was canceling all Air Force drills until further notice due to budget limitations. Over the past 18 months, the IDF also shut down a fighter jet squadron and a Cobra combat helicopter squadron, and fired over 1,000 career soldiers.
Soon after, Netanyahu spoke to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Finance Minister Yair Lapid and told them to stop attacking each other and keep the discussion civil and on-topic, and that he will personally get involved in solving the problem.
Netanyahu also discussed the closure of the Home Front Defense Ministry. "When I first started dealing with the issue, I thought that the responsibility should be moved to the Public Security Ministry, including responsibility for the Home Front Command," he recounted. "However, I changed my mind after the IDF Chief of Staff told me that, in the future, if there is an operational need, they will turn to the IDF anyway."
The prime minister pointed to the Carmel fire and last winter's snowstorm in Jerusalem as examples that prove his point."There's nothing personal here," he said in reference to Ya'alon and former Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan's squabbling.
"The IDF has the tools, the cumulative experience and the ability to deal with major events," Netanyahu added. "In light of this, I decided to move the Home Front Defense Ministry's responsibilities to the Defense Ministry."