IDF, Finance Ministry at War Over Defense Budget

YERUSHALAYIM -

Hostilities between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense over Israel’s military budget continued at full blast this week, forcing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to postpone a final decision on expenditures, Globes reported on Wednesday.

“There is a real war between the [two ministries],” said a high-level economic source in involved in the budget talks.

Mutual recriminations, including charges of lying and hypocrisy, have filled the air in meetings between the two sides in recent days.

Finance is demanding that Defense live up to its commitment to trim its budget by NIS 3 billion, but the latter counters that Finance is really demanding a NIS 7 billion budget cut, when unforeseen “price hikes” are taken into account.

Defense officials argue that if Finance has its way, “the Army will march in place, unable to procure equipment, train and grow stronger.”

Ministry sources say that the current budget renders it impossible for the IDF to draw up a work plan for the coming years. “This is devastating,” said a source, adding, “Under these circumstances, no plane can take off, skills will be eroded, harming the ability to provide defense. The army won’t go bankrupt, but it won’t be able to move, just sit and survive.”

But Finance officials insist the generals are making blatantly unrealistic demands.

“Yesterday’s meeting was utterly fantastical,” said a top Ministry of Finance source. “They say there isn’t enough money to defend Israel, and that the Ministry of Finance is endangering Israelis’ security. But in the same breath, the defense minister in person demands a pay raise, and that he will fight for this. So decide: Either there is money or there isn’t money.”

Since Sunday, the Knesset Joint Defense Budget Committee, chaired by MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), has been meeting behind closed doors to discuss possible cuts to IDF salaries, pensions and rehabilitation.

Netanyahu said that he would make a decision on Monday or Tuesday, but had to delay it because of the failure of the ministries to reach agreement.