Budgets for more than 40 ministries and government departments will be reduced following the Knesset’s sanction of a government-wide budget reduction of 1.5% to finance the establishment of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s new National Guard.
Notable inclusions in the budget cut are the reduction of the defense budget by NIS 285 million, the transport budget by NIS 103m., and the education budget by NIS 56m.; other significant reductions include NIS 20m. from the Science, Culture and Sports Ministry and NIS 1m. from the Holocaust Survivors Authority.
While there’s no indication yet of exactly which projects or initiatives will be impacted as a result, it’s certain that it will have an effect on at least a handful of government initiatives as each industry decides how it will handle the loss of funds.
“We don’t know yet exactly which projects are going to be damaged, but what we do know is that the flexible things, the projects, the programs, the things that are just being established are the ones that are going to be damaged,” said Dr. Ilana Shpaizman, an expert from the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
“In each budget, you have things that you can cut and things you can’t: you cannot cut salaries. If you have teachers, for example, you cannot say to them ‘okay, you’re not going to be paid tomorrow because we have cuts,’” she added. “You can only cut the flexible things – like programs. Some programs can be closed down, or not renewed. You’re going to open two groups instead of five groups or postpone projects altogether.”
In terms of specific programs or projects that will be affected, it is yet too soon to tell – and there’s a fair chance that even the ministries themselves are unsure how they’ll handle the cuts. The Jerusalem Post has approached several ministries, which have so far declined to comment.
SHPAIZMAN DOUBTED that the National Guard will actually be established, given the context in which this decision was made.
How will ministries handle the cuts?
“The Finance Ministry did not want to give [Ben-Gvir] this budget. Probably the funding is going to go to the entire ministry and not just to this police force,” she said. “The government’s decision is to establish a committee to discuss how it’s going to be done – so most likely, nothing is going to happen. I don’t see this force being implemented and becoming a real thing in the near future. But the cost is real.”
Indeed the cost is very real, and some ministries with smaller budgets, such as the Environmental Protection Ministry, may find itself hamstrung by its 1.5% loss of NIS 3.5m.
Meital Peleg Mizrachi, a consumption and environmental justice researcher in the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University, elaborated:
“In general, this cut is a negative cut, both in terms of its consequences and in terms of the goals for which it was made. The [Environmental Protection] Ministry’s budget in 2023-2024 will be less than NIS 400m., which will significantly weaken the ministry,” Peleg Mizrachi said, adding that “It should be remembered that this is an office that was considered a weak office even before, with few areas of authority. The fields of energy and transportation are managed by other ministries, thus the ability of the ministry to promote significant actions is inherently narrow,” and is now even narrower.
According to Peleg Mizrachi, though the loss of millions of shekels is a big deal, it only exacerbates the bigger issue of the problematic policy being carried out by the current environmental protection minister, Idit Silman.
“The steps to promote a carbon tax and to promote environmental policy in Arab society have been stopped, and steps are being taken that violate the Clean Air Law,” she said. “Therefore, the promoted environmental measures by the current government are very worrying, no less than the future cut in the ministry’s budget.”
The uncertainty surrounding the budget cut’s effect has led some NGOs to wonder what the future holds for their collaboration with the government.
Rabbi Mendy Blau, Israel director of Colel Chabad, operates one such organization, whose National Food Security Initiative depends largely on the project remaining favorable even after the Finance Ministry’s own budget reduction of NIS 11m.
“The dedicated budget for the National Food Security Initiative is not included within the base budget and therefore its continuation is contingent upon the goodwill and agreement of the Finance Ministry,” said Blau. “As of now, there’s a commitment from the finance minister that the initiative’s budget will not be affected and we very much hope that will be the case.”