Defense Ministry, Treasury renew budget feud

Barak praises Tishlet C'tee calling for 66b. shekel annual defense budget; Finance Ministry: C'tee can't be taken seriously.

Steinitz and  Stanley Fischer 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Steinitz and Stanley Fischer 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Defense and Finance ministries clashed publicly for the second time in as many weeks on Sunday over the 2013 defense budget.
The latest confrontation came after the Defense Ministry published the recommendations of an internal panel, known as the Tishler Committee, which calls for NIS 66 billion in annual defense spending – NIS 4b. more than the current budget.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the committee for what he described as its professional and indepth examination, saying it was staffed by “leading professionals in their field.”
But the Finance Ministry said it was “strange that the Defense Ministry set up, in its [own] words, ‘a secret committee’ for the budget without the participation of representatives from the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.”
“A committee set up on behalf of [the Defense Ministry alone] can’t be taken seriously,” the Finance Ministry said, adding that the panel’s conclusions were determined in advance.
Hitting back, the Defense Ministry said it was unfortunate that the “Finance Ministry cannot deal with the content of the report...and instead chooses to employ slogans that aren’t true.”
The claim that Finance Ministry officials were excluded from the committee is baseless, the Defense Ministry said, since the Finance Ministry’s accountant- general and its deputy head for budget planning appeared before the committee.
The committee’s creation was announced in September 2011, and was the subject of numerous publications, the Defense Ministry continued, saying that “the claim it is secret is baseless too.”
The committee is headed by Prof. Asher Tishler, dean of the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University.
Its members include financial experts. The Defense Ministry set up the commission to examine defense budget needs, as well as proposals for efficiency plans.
During a cabinet meeting held in the Knesset last week to discuss the issue, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz argued that the Arab countries had neglected military procurement spending for years because of economic crises, thereby casting doubt on the Defense Ministry’s assertion that additional funding is needed. He further stated that if the defense budget were increased to a large degree, it would come at the expense of social spending.
Treasury officials presented data showing that the defense budget reached NIS 60.578 billion this year, well above the figure of NIS 50.500 billion set out for 2012 in the original biennial budget. They claimed the Defense Ministry saved just NIS 0.8 billion of the NIS 10 billion it was obligated to save under the Brodet Commission’s five-year plan for 2008-12.
But Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer contradicted Steinitz, telling the cabinet that the Defense Ministry stood “more or less” by its expenditure obligations under the Brodet plan. The Brodet plan was formulated after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and set defense spending targets for the following decade.
Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.