Yaalon Halts Move to Negev, Blames Lapid

YERUSHALAYIM (Hamodia Staff) -
Site of the construction of the new Combined Military Training Bases in the Negev Desert, near Be’er Sheva. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
Site of the construction of the new Combined Military Training Bases in the Negev Desert, near Be’er Sheva. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

In what may be more fallout from the coalition crisis, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered that the IDF’s move to a new training complex in the Negev, known as Ir HaBahadim, or the Combined Military Training Bases, be halted, Arutz Sheva reported.

Yaalon blamed the decision on Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s failure to follow through on funding commitments. The Defense Ministry says that the Treasury promised to fund several defense-related projects, including the move to the Negev. The Finance Ministry maintains that the project has been accounted for within the defense budget for 2015.

Yaalon sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Lapid and Be’er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich charging that the Finance Ministry has reneged on its promise to transfer nine billion shekels for the project.

“I unequivocally state that the Finance minister’s statement that his office allocated sufficient funds in the defense budget for the execution of the project — is not correct,” Yaalon wrote. “The Ministry of Finance presents a false picture of the allocation of resources to the defense budget.”

The defense minister further stated, “The conduct on this issue significantly undermines the trust of the system and those who serve in the transition project and the issue is not being addressed as a national project as required. Moving IDF units to the Negev is a nationalist and significant move, and the defense system headed by me is making all the efforts to promote it and to implement it for the benefit of the IDF, the Negev and the state of Israel. Unfortunately, and as long as the Treasury ignores government decisions and agreements, this important project will not be promoted.”

The Defense and Finance ministries have been wrangling over the former’s budget for months, but the coalition crisis likely exacerbated it.

The minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, Silvan Shalom, deplored the development on Sunday evening.

“This is a difficult blow to the hundreds of thousands of the Negev’s residents, and they should not be held hostage to the egocentric battles of politicians and government ministries,” Shalom said.

“It is imperative for the heads of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense to resolve their differences and continue to execute this project, which is so necessary for the state of Israel, as well as the development of the Negev as a whole,” he added.