Top security officials and Knesset members have called on the government to further boost the 2014 defense budget beyond an increase already approved in December, saying a lack of funds for training could harm Israel’s security.
The 2014 budget was approved on Tuesday by a joint committee of the Finance Committee and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. In their decision panel members urged the government to find additional funding sources and add NIS 750 million ($213 million) to the already approved budget.
The Finance Committee already approved a NIS 3.27 billion ($932 million) increase to the budget in December. But security officials claim this is not enough to avoid cuts to training programs.
Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu) said that “the dramatic reduction expected in training exercises – both for standing army [forces] and for reserve soldiers – may prove to be a risky gamble down the line.”
“It is the government’s duty in the coming year to close the critical gap that has formed,” he said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, also present at the committee meeting, echoed Hanegbi’s sentiment.
Ya’alon acknowledged that the 2014 budget presented challenges, saying some compromises would have to be made due to budgetary restrictions, but that training exercises must not be affected. Gantz stressed that further funding was essential. “We must ensure that the IDF is at all times at the utmost level of readiness,” he said.
In May of last year the government set the IDF budget at NIS 51 billion ($14.5 billion). The military took a cut of NIS 3 billion from its 2014 budget, but argued that the cuts would actually amount to NIS 7.4 billion ($2.1 billion) due to factors beyond the IDF’s control, such as higher electricity costs and taxes, payments for injured soldiers and additional benefits for career soldiers due to the rising retirement age.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.