Aharanovitch staves off slash to Public Security Ministry budget

Minister's rejection of proposals prompted PM's entrance into negotiations room following all night talks.

By the time the time the sun came up over Jerusalem Wednesday morning, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovitch and Treasury officials had officially hit a dead-end following all-night negotiations at the Knesset. No common ground was found between the sides over the proposed NIS 1.4 billion cut to the ministry's forthcoming biannual budget. True to his word, Aharanovitch had not budged from his total opposition to the cut, which he said would cause "irreparable damage" to Israel's police force and undermine personal security in the country. Had the cut gone ahead, according to police, over a thousand officers would have been laid off, hundreds of patrol cars would have been taken off the road, and the Lahav 433 anti-organized crime unit would have been disbanded. Aharanovitch had mobilized the support of his fellow party members at Israel Beiteinu to oppose the cut, and demanded the direct intervention of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. "The clock was showing 10 a.m. and there was no agreement. All of the Israel Beiteinu Party members were threatening to withhold support for the budget if an agreement was not reached," a Public Security Ministry source told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "Then the prime minister entered the negotiations room, along with [Finance Minister Yuval] Steinitz. The cuts were scrapped and NIS 700 million was added to the ministry's budget," the source added. "If you add that to the NIS 100 million the ministry will receive, based on coalition agreements, that's almost a billion shekels [of additions]." For Aharanovitch, the result can only be described as a resounding success, despite the six percent cut that the Public Security Ministry will have to face along with every other ministry - part of an overall budgetary belt tightening. In addition to the inevitable fatigue, "the atmosphere at the ministry is positive on the whole. If you take into consideration the economic situation, and if you take a realistic view of things, this result is absolutely fine," the source added. At the same time, the source expressed support for comments made by Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen, who said on Wednesday that despite escaping the budgetary guillotine this time, the police must in principle receive a higher status on the government's priority list. "The commissioner is undoubtedly right. In light of all the challenges faced by police, they cannot be expected to deal with these issues with empty hands," the source said. In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Aharanovitch said he was "glad that the prime minister, the finance minister, and Treasury officials understood the importance of not cutting resources to the Public Security Ministry." He added that the agreed upon budget will "provide appropriate answers to the police and the Israel Prisons Service, and will allow work programs to be implemented."