Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid agreed in principle on Sunday to major cuts in defense spending and other governmental services.
In an effort to curb the country’s mounting deficit, which comes to approximately NIS 16 billion, the Finance Ministry requested to cut the defense budget by NIS 5 billion, Maariv reported, an idea Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon dismissed as irresponsible.
“Over the years I’ve believed, and I still believe, that you don’t touch the [Defense Ministry's] research and development budget, you don’t enslave the future” to solve today’s problems, Ya’alon told officials at Israel Military Industries on Sunday.
Finance Ministry sources told Maariv, however, that there was plenty of maneuvering room within the security budget. There is the possibility of shortening the service of some soldiers to less than three years, along with targeting early pension plans and other “inflated” areas, the sources said.
Lapid wrote on his Facebook page Saturday night that in his first meeting with treasury officials, he found the country was facing a “monstrous overdraft,” which he would devote his first year in office to lowering. He warned that painful cuts would be necessary in order to balance Israel’s budget.
In addition to targeting the Defense Ministry, Lapid reportedly intends to cut back on the planned financing of infrastructural development — mainly roads and railways — and to halt the implementation of state-subsidized education beginning at the age of three.
“We will work hard, we will cut, we will lower expenses and we’ll also cut from painful places,” Lapid wrote to Yesh Atid party supporters in a blog post. “It will be hard, it will be pressure-filled, but there is also an upside: If we do it now, it won’t take long.”
Joshua Davidovich contributed to this article