Knesset finance panel approves NIS 5.7 billion for Defense Ministry

Opposition members slam ‘last-minute hijack’ of funding.

Israeli army Merkava tanks churn up dust as they race towards targets during a live-fire exercise (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli army Merkava tanks churn up dust as they race towards targets during a live-fire exercise
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset Finance Committee on Monday approved the transfer of NIS 5.7 billion to the 2014 defense budget.
NIS 3.6b. of that amount came from the Finance Ministry’s budgetary reserves from 2013, and from money that will not be used this year by other government ministries. NIS 2.1b. was unspent US assistance that had been earmarked for 2013.
Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said the allocation is designed to cover defense costs from the summer’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Opposition members slammed it as a “last-minute hijack” and a “cynical exploitation of security issues.”
The allocation was part of a series of measures designed to allow the country to function in the coming months despite the early election. Whatever funds the committee fails to approve could be stuck for six months, Slomiansky warned.
But defense sources told The Jerusalem Post the allocation would barely make a dent in the military’s budgetary woes. Currently, the IDF receives a monthly sum from the Finance Ministry based on a 12th of the 2012-2013 budget – an amount defense sources have warned is woefully inadequate to maintain even basic operations.
The new allocations “won’t have any effect” in remedying the situation, one source said, adding that only a complete annual defense budget that takes into consideration the variety of Israel’s security needs could do that. “The additions are insufficient,” he said.
Earlier, opposition lawmakers on the Finance Committee voiced their opposition to it.
MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) said the panel’s meeting was “illegal,” adding that its members were barred from knowing “all of the details about the transfer.”
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said the meeting made a “mockery of the Knesset,” describing the transfer as the result of a “policy of wars. It has a price. Cuts to public transport in order to allocate funds to defense is to destroy it [public transport].”
MK Erel Margalit (Labor) said the decision “takes money away from important goals that have already been approved for receiving budgetary reserves.”
MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) said the decision represented the exploitation of the security issue in order to make last minute transfers.