New Barak-Steinitz disagreement erupts over IDF retirement age

Row erupts after finance minister sends letter to Chief-of-Staff demanding additional pay cuts to career servicemen.

Steinitz 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Steinitz 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Defense Minister Ehud Barak slammed Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz over the weekend for continuing to demand the IDF cut the defense budget and to career servicemen's retirement plans. The row between the two senior government ministers erupted on Tuesday after several financial papers reported that Steinitz had sent a letter directly to IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi demanding additional pay cuts to military career servicemen. Sending the letter to Ashkenazi was against ministerial protocol and was interpreted as a move aimed at sidestepping Barak. "Your letter to the chief of staff regarding career servicemen is against basic proper procedure and has no place particularly when it comes to leaving the IDF out of the political debate," Barak wrote in a letter sent to Steinitz. Following last month's budget debates, the Defense Ministry and the Treasury agreed the IDF would present a new budget plan in which it would make reforms to the retirement age of career officers and non-commissioned officers, as well as their accompanying benefits. The IDF has yet to present the plan so Steinitz sent Ashkenazi a letter demanding the retirement age be raised from 42 to 57 for non-combat officers and from 42 to 46 for combat officers. One of the reasons the IDF maintains a low retirement age is to enable decommissioned officers and servicemen to begin a second career, as opposed to being unemployed in their mid-fifties, an age the IDF believes is too old to find employment. In his letter, Barak said the IDF was in the process of formulating a plan to raise the retirement age as was agreed upon during the state budget negotiations last month. Nevertheless, Barak wrote, "it is our duty to ensure that radical and disproportional steps are not taken against career servicemen and their families."