'Defense Ministry on the offensive since cuts'

Steinitz slams the IDF at cabinet meeting, saying it should not "incite the public against the government."

soldier jumps of Merkava tank 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
soldier jumps of Merkava tank 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz accused the Defense Ministry of embarking upon "a campaign of threats and intimidation" since the government approved cuts to its budget, during Sunday morning's weekly cabinet meeting.
"In a democratic state, the army does not incite the public against the government," said Steinitz.
"The cabinet decided, and the army should salute and accept it," he added. "Someone is trying to cynically explore the auditor's report; we will continue to conduct a rational discussion."
Kadima MK Nachman Shai on Sunday railed against the conflict between the two ministries, saying that the issue exposes government "weakness in public."
He blamed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for standing "on the sidelines," instead of "rectifying the issues between two of his senior ministers."
Last week, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar expressed similar sentiments, criticizing the Defense Ministry’s constant “campaigning against government decisions,” saying it brings harm to Israeli citizens. “Every government decision is the basis for a new campaign,” he said. “We can’t live in a state with one ministry that, the minute a decision is made, starts a campaign to change it.”
Sa’ar pointed out that other government offices were “drastically cut” due to defense budget increases in the past, and as a result, education, health and welfare services were adversely affected.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that the IDF is short NIS 3.3 billion. At a committee meeting on a freeze of IDF purchases from factories in the periphery that manufacture components for the Merkava tank, Naveh said that contract workers – the subject of a Histadrut general strike that ended last Sunday – are not more important than defense employees.
According to Naveh, the current budget has made it impossible for the IDF to grow stronger, and military exercises will stop from April.
The IDF also froze the purchase of two Iron Dome missile defense batteries and the Arrow 3 missile system.
“One can claim that the defense budget grew as compared to last year, but realistically, this isn’t true,” Naveh said. “It must be said: The IDF is in a crisis.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report