Netanyahu refuses to back state-commissioned army cutback plan
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Netanyahu refuses to back state-commissioned army cutback plan

Prime minister praises Locker Report and military’s suggestions; says he will weigh both proposals and bring to cabinet vote

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, on July 27, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, on July 27, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t commit to implementing drastic IDF reforms recommended by the state-initiated Locker Commission, saying Monday that he would study the report alongside different recommendations submitted by the army and let the cabinet decide which to adopt.

The Locker Report, commissioned by Netanyahu in 2014, calls for deep cuts in the army’s spending plan, a sharp reduction in the duration of compulsory service and a fixed five-year budget for the IDF to plan for future conflicts. It was made public last Tuesday, igniting an angry volley of criticism from military brass.

The report also proposes cuts to the Defense Ministry’s famously generous pension plans and reducing the term of service for non-combat soldiers from three years to two by 2020.

The army has produced its own reorganization plan, which calls for moderate cuts and leaves the pension plan in place.

“[Commission chief] Yohanan Locker did excellent work, but the IDF also did important work,” Netanyahu said. “I will study the Locker Report and the IDF’s several-year plan to see which is optimal. We will bring it to a cabinet vote.”

The Locker Report also recommended a fixed annual budget of NIS 59 billion ($15 billion) for the next five years — the defense budget has traditionally grown by several billion shekels every year, with infusions beyond the official budget — and call for closer oversight of the army’s manpower branch, according to reports.

The report, which was submitted to Netanyahu three weeks ago, has elicited a furious response from military officials, who warn that implementing its recommendations will harm the IDF’s capabilities and dissuade talented and promising individuals from seeking a career in the service.

One anonymous official called the report “a bullet between the eyes of the IDF” and a plan “suitable for Switzerland,” not Israel.

The military had one day earlier put forward its own reorganization plan. Termed the “Gideon” plan, it would see career officers’ pensions upheld, with certain reforms; cuts to the military’s reserve personnel; a 6 percent across-the-board cut to headquarters personnel; the relegation of certain jobs to the civilian sector; and several structural reforms in combat units.

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