Supplemental Defense Budget Approved

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) in the 19th Knesset’s last session on Monday.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) in the 19th Knesset’s last session on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset Finance Committee on Monday approved the transfer of 5.7 billion shekels to the 2014 defense budget, to cover the costs of Operation Protective Edge.

The Finance Ministry’s budgetary reserves provided NIS 3.6b. of that amount from 2013, along with unspent monies from other ministries. NIS 2.1b. came from leftover U.S. assistance that had been earmarked for 2013.

The decision did not go down smoothly with opposition leaders, who denounced it as a “last-minute hijack” and a “cynical exploitation of security issues.”

Nonetheless, Defense sources told The Jerusalem Post the allocations still fell far short of the military’s needs to finance training and operations in the coming year.

Meanwhile, reports have surfaced in the Israeli media that Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has asked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for clarification regarding his future in the post.

There is speculation that, if Netanyahu wins re-election, he will appoint Naftali Bennett as Yaalon’s successor. The standing of Bennett’s party, Jewish Home, in the polls is currently as strong as Likud, and as the potential key partner in a future coalition, he is likely to ask for the Defense Ministry portfolio.

Apparently, Yaalon’s job is at risk due to dissatisfaction with his handling of Operation Protective Edge, and failure to unblock funds for construction in Yehudah and Shomron.

“There is much appreciation for him,” one senior source in the party told Ynet, “but the right wing of Likud has a problem with him. They expected him to release certain blocks and restrictions created by Ehud Barak, they expected he would loosen the legal obstacles and help advance construction – but he didn’t do that.”

“In the last war they had also expected different results from him. We had a two-month war against a terror organization, with a defense minister who worried about being on the ground. It created a deep dissatisfaction, and it is not improbable some would seek to settle the score.”

Netanyahu declined to make any commitments to Yaalon, according to the reports. However, given the utter unpredictability of the elections in March, Netanyahu doesn’t know who will make up his coalition if he wins.

“Netanyahu cannot realistically make a commitment to Yaalon,” said sources in the Likud. “Under the current conditions, it is unclear how many ministries we could even keep after these elections.”