Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz lopped NIS 100 million from the defense budget in what was seen as a smack on the wrist for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who on Monday voted against the government’s latest economic plan.
Steinitz increased the budget cut to the Defense Ministry from NIS 18 million to NIS 118 million. The move came after Barak (Independence), along with eight other ministers from the coalition, voted against the latest round of budget cuts and tax hikes at a cabinet meeting on Monday.
Sources close to Barak criticized the move as being “immature.”
“Steinitz’s behavior is childish and punishes the security of the country,” the sources said.
Earlier, Barak explained in a statement his objections to the budget cuts that hit most ministries and why he believes they will only make a recession worse. The defense minister said that when an economy is growing, the government should reduce its debt and put something away for a rainy day. Then, “during a recession, the main job of the government is to protect the human element and the investment system,” Barak said. “We are talking about people who work hard in small and medium size businesses and who are carrying the whole country on their backs.”
Opposition leader MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) blasted the budget cuts and tax hikes in an interview with Army Radio.
“The little guy is being made to pay for [Prime Minister] Netanyahu’s mistakes,” Mofaz said.
Half the money slashed from the Defense Ministry will reportedly be used in part to pay for the ongoing fortification of Barzilai Hospital, a project that was thrown into doubt following Health Ministry cuts. Critical wards and emergency units at the hospital will be moved to special bunkers to protect patients and staff against rocket fire from Gaza. The remaining NIS 50 million will be spent on education.