'Budget should be expanded to answer social demands'

Barak suggests NIS 7 billion expansion of budget; Steinitz responds that to call such a proposal irresponsible "is an understatement."

Ehud Barak 311 (photo credit: Ariel Tarmoni/Defense Ministry)
Ehud Barak 311
(photo credit: Ariel Tarmoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that the state budget should be expanded in order to help implement the Trajtenberg Committee's recommendations, Israel Radio reported.
Barak said that in order to answer the demands of the social justice movement, the state budget should be expanded by NIS 7 billion, according to the report.
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Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz responded to Barak, saying that such a proposal was irresponsible.
"To break the budget limit in today's world is dangerous," Steinitz said. "It's like driving on a narrow bridge and swerving from side-to-side." To call such a move irresponsible "is an understatement."
The statements come as defense officials went on the defensive over NIS 3 billion cuts to the defense budget, which some said would hinder the IDF's preparedness.
Barak on Monday butted heads with Steinitz over the defense cuts, which could ostensibly be avoided if the budget were expanded.
Barak argued that despite the need for substantial changes within the government to facilitate socioeconomic changes, the Defense Ministry cannot afford any dramatic budget cuts. At a time when Israel faces numerous threats, he said, this is not the time for dramatic cuts.
Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Shani warned Monday that budget cuts would impede the IDF's capabilities.
"It will be hard to sustain training, call up reserves and there will be a serious blow to the equipment inventory," Shani told Army Radio.
The IDF also pushed back Monday against government plans to cut the defense budget.
Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz said that he will not allow officers to be publicly criticized for standing up for their principles and opposing the cuts.
Gantz’s comment came in response to criticism within the Treasury and government that the IDF was acting “spoiled” and needed to make dramatic cuts to the defense budget.
Yaakov Katz, Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.