Steinitz attacks Barak over budget comments

Finance Minister lambasts Defense Minister over "nonsense" comments on budget, says his criticism undermines gov't.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz launched a stunning attack on Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday, accusing him of undermining the government through comments about the budget.
“I am happy that Binyamin Netanyahu is prime minister, and not Ehud Barak. Because if Barak was in charge of the economy and the budget, we would collapse worse than Greece,” Steinitz told Israel Radio.
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“I heard the baseless things Barak had to say… he should have consulted with us before speaking such nonsense.”
Steinitz was referring to a statement released by Barak on Sunday in support of an increased budget. Media outlets reported Sunday that the Treasury had decided to raise the 2012 budget deficit by one percent, but Steinitz rejected those reports later that day, saying no decision had been reached on the matter.
Barak said in his statement (which was released before Steinitz’s clarification), that “we must expand the budget framework to meet the crucial mass of social needs, essential defense needs and the need to protect ourselves from upcoming recession.”
Steinitz said in his interview with Israel Radio on Monday that there was to be no budget expansion, but confirmed that there was a decrease in tax revenues because of the slowdown in economic growth in the third quarter. “Therefore,” he said, “the deficit grew larger than expected, and we will weigh up toward 2012 steps to moderate this.”
Steinitz added: “Ehud Barak is attacking not just the treasury, but the government, and it just doesn’t make sense that a minister would attack the policies of the government, the Treasury and the Bank of Israel in such a harsh manner… It doesn’t make sense that in a democratic country the defense minister would object to the government’s stance. The defense minister can consult but he cannot criticize the government in public.”