The political-security cabinet today decided unanimously to increase the defense budget by NIS 2.75 billion. It was also decided to establish a public committee to examine all aspects of the defense budget. A team chaired by Prime Minister's Office director general Harel Locker will be established to expedite the vacating of IDF bases in central Israel in order to free up land in high demand areas.
In the past month, there has been a bitter battle over the 2014 defense budget, in which the Ministry of Finance has insisted in keeping the NIS 3 billion budget cut, as agreed in the state budget, while the Ministry of Defense has argued that the Ministry of Finance's actual budget cut was NIS 7 billion, because of higher prices and unforeseen events. The NIS 4 billion gap cannot be closed except by cuts in the budgets of civilian ministries.
The Ministry of Defense is demanding a defense budget of at least NIS 55.5 billion in 2014, which takes into account price hikes in the economy and unforeseen events. The Ministry of Finance says that the alternative to a defense budget cut is a broad cut in other ministries' budgets.
Amid the tensions between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Finance ahead of today's meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Finance Yair Lapid criticized the Ministry of Defense and officers' salaries. "Brigadier generals earn more than the prime minister," he said.
In talks behind closed doors on Wednesday, Lapid told aides that if the defense budget was not cut, this would mean the collapse of civil society because of the defense establishment. A Lapid aide said, "It seems that the finance minister is stubbornly fighting for every shekel, otherwise the prime minister would have already decided the matter."
In previous rounds between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Finance over the defense budget, Netanyahu usually decided in favor of the Ministry of Defense.
Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon, Ministry of Defense Dan Harel and IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Ganz headed today talks against the Ministry of Finance's team, headed by Lapid, Budget Director Amir Levy, and director general Yael Andoran.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 31, 2013
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