Finance Committee greenlights defense budget boost

After holding up NIS 3.27 billion last week to examine source of funds, Knesset body okays transfer to IDF

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

File: Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset Finance Committee approved a NIS 3.27 billion ($932 million) increase to the defense budget Monday.

The move came a week after the powerful body held up a request from the Defense and Finance ministries to approve an extra-budgetary infusion to the 2014 defense budget, demanding additional details on the source of the allotment.

The increase was unanimously approved by the cabinet in October, and needed to pass the Finance Committee to go into effect.

The extra funds end a standoff between the Finance and Defense ministries over cuts to the defense budget.

Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) said last Monday that he was concerned the extra funds would come from cuts in welfare and social services, instead of a tax surplus.

Slomiansky instructed the Finance Ministry to come back with a plan on how it intended to return to the social and welfare ministries the money transferred from them to defense.

The IDF had originally hoped to secure a NIS 4.5 billion ($1.28 billion) increase. NIS 2.79 billion ($800 million) was a compromise figure, the product of lengthy and at times tense talks between Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

To the NIS 2.79 billion, another NIS 300 million ($85 million) were added Monday to fund the IDF’s withdrawal from bases in the center of the country. In addition, Maariv reported, the committee approved transfers of NIS 90 million ($25 million), NIS 50 million ($14 million), and NIS 40 million ($11 million)  for specific projects which will be detailed when the committee responsible for the defense budget meets.

Benny Gantz, the chief of staff, initially said that without an extra NIS 4.5 billion, the army would have to cut training programs.

In May, 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.

Meanwhile, the IDF said it had done its part to live up to its end of the budget, making cuts to its workforce and, in June, halting operational activity for reservist units for the rest of this year.

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