'Defense budget increase is killing social justice'

FADC chair Mofaz criticizes NIS 1.67b. addition authorized to defense budget, says gov't favors defense over social justice.

MK Mofaz 300 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
MK Mofaz 300 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Trajtenberg Report has been effectively buried, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said after his committee and the Knesset Finance Committee authorized a NIS 1.67 billion addition to the defense budget on Monday.
Most of the additional funds were redirected from budgetary surpluses of other government offices, such as the Welfare Ministry and Immigrant Absorption Ministry.
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All coalition MKs voted for the increase, while Mofaz and MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) opposed, hours after the government approved it with six ministers voting against the addition.
According to Mofaz, this is the first time the joint committee on the defense budget was asked to approve such a large sum so close to the December 31 deadline.
The committee chairman called the move “improper,” and explained that he asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to bring it to a ministerial vote before the Knesset could make a decision.
“Why aren’t budgetary surpluses used to take care of social problems that were protested by citizens last summer?” Mofaz asked. “The government must find the proper balance between social and security needs, and the public should know exactly where the additions to the defense budget come from.”
He added that the government has made it clear that it prefers the defense budget over social justice.
“This coalition has no heart or compassion,” Mofaz added.
MK Einat Wilf, chairwoman of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence faction, said that most government ministries act responsibly, which is why they have budgetary surpluses. However, she explained, the Defense Ministry tends to take risks; because it knows its commitments will be covered when it asks for additional funds.
According to MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), this is not an unusual occurrence. Almost every year, some government ministries do not use all of the funds allocated by the Finance Ministry, and whatever is left over is transferred to those who need it.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said they agree with Vaknin, adding that if the funds are not sent to the Defense Ministry, it will go back to the Finance Ministry, and everyone would lose.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union), however, said that it seems like the government is “behaving in a way that borders on deception and irresponsibility.”
The largest budgetary surpluses transferred to the Defense Ministry are NIS 124,993,000 from pensions and NIS 113,600,000 from National Insurance. The ministry with the largest surplus going to defense is the Welfare Ministry, with NIS 69,765.