Defense budget talks in shadow of social protest

Leaders meet to discuss proposed NIS 4b. cuts to defense budget.

Ya'alon and Gantz smiling at each other 370 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Ya'alon and Gantz smiling at each other 370
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid was set to discuss his proposed NIS 4 billion cuts to the defense budget with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon  and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz on Sunday.
Treasury officials said that if the defense cuts were not made, other cutbacks and deductions would be necessary.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) said defense officials were ready for certain cuts, but only if they were to be implemented over a multi-year framework.  
There is no escape from cuts in the defense budget, MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said in an interview on Israel Radio Sunday. "Whoever didn't do these things in the past two years can't come now and say you can't cut, because urgency is the matter and not just importance," he said. 
Although defense and finance ministers have said talks and relations have been good so far, they have not agreed on implementing cuts yet.
"The defense establishment understands there is no choice - it will also have to undergo cutbacks. When they see child benefits are being cut in Israel, they understand that this time the defense establishment won't escape," Lapid said in an interview with Channel 10 over the weekend.
Knesst Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee for Human Resources and Training chairman Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) called for Lapid to cut the defense budget.
"Our power is the man in the tank and not just the tank. Therefore, I suggest that the Finance Minister, Prime Minister and Defense Minister help the man in the tank win and cut the defense budget," Bar-Lev said on Sunday.
Bar-Lev added that a strong society is just as important as national security and the home front's strength is worth that of an additional armored division.
"A strong society is one with equal education for all, good health services in the periphery like in the center, and where citizens can enjoy reasonable housing without needing to invest most of their income in it for most of their lives," he said.
Sunday's budget meeting follows the Saturday demonstrations in which several thousand people marched around central Tel Aviv to protest the draft state budget presented last week by Lapid.
The demonstrators jeered Lapid, calling him a puppet of the captains of Israeli industry, and accusing him of betraying the middle-class Israelis who voted him into power. In addition to the chants from the social justice protests of the summer of 2011, the crowd repeatedly chanted “There’s no future with Lapid and Bibi,” in a play on the name of Lapid’s Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) party.
The government was scheduled to convene on Monday to discuss the budget and defense cuts, and afterward Netanyahu was to meet with his security cabinet.
Ben Hartman and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.