Professor Ezra Sadan, former Director General of the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture, today one of the foremost economists of Israeli academia, accused the state of Israel last week of a stubborn insistence on a full-scale draft that places heavy demands on the military budget. His statements were made at a conference on the defense budget held before military researchers at Kineret College.
“One of the main problems weighing on the military budget is the insistence on carrying out a total draft, and now, in addition to this, is a desire to draft an entire sector of the population that is not at all interested in military service. There’s no question that a change in approach would lead to efficiency and savings for the budget,” Sadan said.
Sadan’s remarks were bolstered by Gen. Ilan Biran (Ret.), chairman of Kineret College’s directing committee and former Director General of the Defense Ministry, who said: “The mandatory draft law drafts a lot of people that the army simply does not need, and it’s costing the economy more than NIS 1 billion a year that could be saved.”
The two dealt also with a matter that comes up every year when the Defense Ministry is asked to make cutbacks and finds itself at odds with the Finance Ministry’s professional staff.
Said Sadan, “There’s a difference between deliberations on the budget held in the past, when the defense budget made up a large chunk of the gross domestic product. Today, when the defense budget constitutes but a few percentage points of the GDP, I would expect that deliberations would be more to-the-point and not through the hole of the grush [the old Israeli coin]. (A popular Israeli play on words, which means that not everything should be seen through the prism of the cost.)
Said Biran, “The defense budget must be a long-term budget of at least ten years and not something that is adjusted annually. The intent is to build a budget that can be adjusted along the way but which builds a framework that will enable the IDF and the Defense Ministry to become more economic and plan for the long term.”