Former minister and author of Israel's newly formulated defense doctrine, Dan Meridor, slammed the government on Tuesday saying that "people who do not understand defense should not be in the government in defense-related positions." Asked by The Jerusalem Post if he was referring to Defense Minister Amir Peretz - who is incessantly slammed for his lack of security experience, Meridor said that he was in fact referring to the entire government. He made his remarks at the Caesarea Forum of the Israel Democracy Institute held at the Dan Caesarea Hotel, which focused this year on the decision-making process for the formulation of the national defense budget.
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Meridor said the government lacked a staff capable of assisting it in reaching responsible decisions. "The responsibility for the defense budget is in the government's hands but it does not have any team that assists in its formulation," Meridor noted.
At the conference, a team headed by former director-general of the Defense Ministry Ilan Biran presented a position paper which called for the implementation of a series of reforms to the process by which the defense budget is determined. According to the paper, the recent Lebanon war indicated the need for additional changes to the budget, including changing it from an annual plan to one that spans over several years.
The paper also recommended utilizing the National Security Council as a body that would assist the government in creating the defense budget, and in increasing the budget and defense spending.
Former director-general of the Defense Ministry Amos Yaron called for an end to the "major waste of money in the Israeli defense industry."
Yaron said there were people who held positions in the defense establishment but who did nothing. "This needs to be said now, so we don't try to hide the reality behind IDF tanks," he said.
MK Avishay Braverman, a member of the Knesset committee that approves the defense budget, attacked the decision-making process and demanded reform that would make the Israeli procedure more similar to the way the US defense budget is determined in the Senate.
"We receive the defense budget minutes before we're asked to vote on it, and are told that everything is classified," Braverman said. "In the US Senate, they are given the budget far in advance, and committee members have time to consult with professionals, to be able to provide effective criticism."
Braverman added that the constant switchover of defense ministers and governments had a severe and negative impact on the defense establishment and its attempt to create multi-year plans.
Peretz slammed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during the conference and said that the government's plan to privatize Israel Military Industries (IMI) was a "strategic blow to the State of Israel." Peretz said he preferred to create a "single and unified" defense company in Israel and to combine IMI, which is in major debt, with Rafael - Armament Development Authority.