Finance Committee puts brakes on IDF budget boost

Chairman Nissan Slomiansky insists on knowing where funds coming from before approving request

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 temporarily rejected on Monday 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 money to be transferred.

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

The extra NIS 2.79 billion ($780 million)would end a standoff between the finance and defense ministries over cuts to the defense budget.

Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) said Monday that he was told the extra funds would come from a tax surplus, not from cuts in welfare and social services; however, the cash was actually being drawn from the budgets of other ministries, Globes reported.

“I refuse to approve an additional transfer to defense at the expense of social ministries, without a full, clear and transparent accounting of how they will receive back the funds originally budgeted to them. There are tax surpluses, and it is wrong to harm the welfare, education, health, social budgets in order to pay for an increase to defense,” he said.

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 was a compromise figure, the product of lengthy and at times tense talks between Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon

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 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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