The Israel Defense Forces has canceled military drills by reserve forces planned for the next few months due to budgetary shortfalls, Haaretz reported Monday.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi notified senior reserve commanders of his decision to stop drills — mainly among ground forces operating in the West Bank — until the end of 2019.
It was the first time exercises have been canceled on such a large scale in five years.
The decision reportedly came after Kohavi, who was appointed in January, invested millions of shekels of the IDF’s budget into improving its offensive weapon technologies, creating a deficit in the army’s other functions.
Such publicized plans to call off crucial drills by the military are often seen as attempts to pressure the government into increasing the defense budget out of fear that not doing so could harm the IDF’s preparedness for war.
Money expected to be provided by the Finance Ministry did not ultimately arrive, the report said, and some exercises were added to the military’s schedule without being planned ahead of time.
The military had hoped a drop in the exchange rate or energy prices would help, but when they failed to materialize and commanders realized there would be no funds left, drills were canceled for Division 340, which is under the Central Command and operates in the West Bank.
Many reserve soldiers and commanders were surprised by the decision, saying they had already received official calls to show up for duty. Some officers decried the decision, saying it was made unilaterally and many troops had already canceled plans for summer vacation.
Others claimed the cancellations would reignite tensions regarding the military’s preparedness for war, following previous scathing internal reports saying it wasn’t ready.
Those factors come against a backdrop of a tense climate in the West Bank following a terror attack last week in which two Palestinian men stabbed to death 18-year-old yeshiva student Dvir Sorek. They were caught following an intense 48-hour manhunt.
Additionally, clashes on the Temple Mount Sunday between Muslim rioters and Israeli security forces facilitating the entry of Jews to the Jerusalem holy site angered many Palestinians.
Sunday marked both the start of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday commemorating the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the temples that once stood on the Temple Mount and other disasters in Jewish history.