The Knesset Joint Committee on the Defense Budget on Sunday approved a 2016 defense budget of NIS 56.1 billion ($14.4 billion), in a compromise agreement reached between officials from the defense and finance ministries.
The budget passed by a vote of 8-4 in the committee, and will be added to the broader state budget bill that the Knesset will be considering throughout the week. The defense budget includes the army and Defense Ministry, but excludes other security services such as the Shin Bet and Mossad.
The agreement, a compromise between the NIS 54 billion offered by Finance Ministry officials and the NIS 62 billion requested by the military, includes provisions for beginning the implementation of structural changes in the IDF, in exchange for an additional NIS 3 billion ($770 million) to be transferred during the year. A further NIS 1 billion ($260 million) is to be transferred to the defense budget to account for price increases and inflation, bringing the total potential sum to NIS 60.1 billion ($15.47 billion).
The structural changes that the Defense Ministry agreed to begin implementing include a reduction in military personnel, increases in transparency and oversight, a reduction in length of service for conscripted soldiers, raising the age of retirement for non-commissioned officers, hiring civilian professionals to take the place of some military positions, and offering an exit point for personnel at age 35 with no “bridging pension” between jobs.
Committee chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi praised lawmakers’ “uncompromising stance” in favor of the larger defense allocation, which he said would enable it to carry out “its operational missions.”
Finance Ministry director general Shai Babad emphasized that the additional funding during the year will only be provided if the defense establishment upholds its commitments.
Defense Ministry director general Dan Harel said that the agreement between the two sides relies on bilateral trust, although they have yet to sign an official agreement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the defense budget, saying that in all his years as prime minister and finance minister, this was the first time that such an agreement had been reached. He called it “a proper budget not only for 2016, but also for what will be presented soon, a multi-year plan for the IDF.”
“This is a path for strengthening the IDF and making it more efficient,” Netanyahu said.