Gantz tells Knesset panel increased defense budget is necessary to ready Iran strike

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz appears before the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to justify the government’s budget increase for the military, warning that the additional funds are necessary in order to prepare for a potential strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

This summer, the government announced that it had agreed on a NIS 58 billion ($17.5 billion) defense budget for 2022, an increase from the previous defense budget which was set in 2019 and which has remained in force as the governments since then failed to pass a new one.

“Israel is challenged militarily on many fronts, and therefore there is great importance to approving a defense budget, following years without a fixed budget, which has — to a certain extent — damaged our ability to act, our ability to have efficient communication, and to build up our forces in a more effective way,” Gantz says.

Head of the Blue and White party, Defense Benny Gantz leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In his comments, the defense minister says the most significant threat facing Israel and the one for which the military most needs to allocate its resources is Iran and its nuclear program.

“We see that Iran is advancing toward the level of enrichment that would allow it, when it wished, to become a threshold state — and we are making every effort to prevent that. We will invest in our offensive and defensive capabilities, improve our technological superiority, and accelerate our efforts in order to ensure that — despite the fact that Iran is foremost a global and regional challenge — Israel will always have the ability to defend its citizens with its own forces,” he says.

Gantz says the defense budget is also needed in order to prepare the military for a potential two-front war, to reinforce defenses for the civilian home front, to raise the salaries of conscripted soldiers and to provide better benefits to career soldiers.

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