Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told lawmakers on Tuesday that the proposed 2015-16 defense budget doesn’t meet the nation’s security needs and urged officials to go back to the drawing board.
Speaking to the Knesset’s Joint Committee on the Defense Budget, the defense minister called on lawmakers to reject the proposed budget placed before them by the treasury.
“Unfortunately, the budget for the [Defense Ministry], as approved by the government and as it appears in the [2015-16 state] budget does not allow the defense establishment to equip, operate and properly address [Israel’s] security needs,” he said.
The army has locked horns with Finance Ministry officials in recent months in a disagreement over some NIS 8 billion ($2 billion) for the Defense Ministry’s 2016 budget. The Defense Ministry has sought a budget as high as NIS 64 billion ($16.5 billion), while the Treasury’s proposal to the committee was NIS 56.1 billion ($14.5 billion).
“The prime minister clarified that this budget is not final,” Ya’alon said of the treasury proposal, “and that there will be a need to supplement it. As long as that supplement isn’t provided, and it’s not clear what it will be, I will recommend to this committee not to approve the budget and to wait for the final budget [that reflects] the prime minister’s commitments before the cabinet and this committee.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot also attended the meeting.
The threats Israel faces “have not lessened, but only changed. The terror wave and regional developments require a new intelligence deployment,” he said.
The government-established Locker Committee on the defense budget has recommended an NIS 59 billion ($15.2 billion) annual budget, marking an increase from past years, but called for the boost to be accompanied by a deep 11 percent cut to personnel rolls by 2017, alongside other measures to increase efficiency.
Citing the army’s five-year budget plans and reforms of IDF appropriations and doctrine, Ya’alon lamented the focus by Treasury and other officials on the army’s personnel costs, saying the issue was raised “in an inappropriate way” which has led to a “crisis” in the army’s officer corps.
The committee’s chairman, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, seemed to side with Ya’alon, saying the committee would not vote on the current version of the budget, “something we had hoped to do after 12 long meetings…. I think that there is a very, very low chance we will be able to support this 2016 budget,” he warned.
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