The joint defense budget committee headed by MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) today approved the defense budget for 2016 by 8 votes to 4. According to the committee's decision, the 2016 defense budget will be NIS 60 billion: 56.1 billion, plus a NIS 3 billion supplement, plus NIS 1 billion more for added costs.
As of web posting, the Knesset Finance Committee was voting on approval of the state budget, after the following demands by the Beit Hayehudi Party were granted:
1. The budget for the settlement department of the World Zionist Organization will be increased from NIS 50 million to NIS 150 million.
2. The budget for guarding Jewish homes in East Jerusalem will be increased from NIS 50 million to NIS 83 million.
3. The Ministry of Education will not be included in the across-the-board cut for government ministries, and its budget will therefore escape a NIS 180 million cut.
Defense budget: Mutual trust?
The defense budget supplement for 2016 is contingent on the Ministry of Defense implementing a long series of measures it promised to the Ministry of Finance.
A week ago, the committee members decided against supporting a NIS 56.1 billion defense budget because they believed that this budget would not enable the IDF to achieve its objectives, hold regular exercises, and carry out the necessary procurement.
The political-security cabinet approved the agreement reached by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense, and the cabinet asked the committee to change its stance.
Following the vote, Hanegbi said, "The decision we took in the previous meeting against approving the budget was uprecedented, but it expedited the dialogue between the Ministries of Finance and Defense. It has now become possible for us to wholeheartedly support the change presented to us, both because of the budget supplement and because of the IDF's commitment to essential structural changes, especially its agreement to adopt the multi-year plan that will provide certainty, flexibility, and stability for the country's most important system."
Ministry of Finance budget director Amir Levy said that the NIS 3 billion budget supplement would be granted to the Ministry of Defense, provided that the Ministry of Defense implements a number of cost-cutting measures: IDF personnel cuts, increased transparency and control, shorter compulsory service, a higher retirement age for NCOs, hiring civilians for professional jobs, and adding an "exit gate" at age 35 for soldiers in the permanent army, without a bridging pension.
Ministry of Defense director general Dan Harel emphasized that the agreement between the Ministries of Finance and Defense was based on mutual trust, even though the parties had not yet signed a formal agreement. Ministry of Finance director general Shai Babad added that if the defense establishment did not fulfill its commitments, the Ministry of Finance would not transfer the supplement during the year.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 15, 2015
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