Israel Defense, Security Agencies Get Extra $3.4 Billion

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

The Knesset Finance Committee on Monday approved an extra 13.2 billion shekels ($3.4 billion) for defense and security after a stormy debate in which the opposition accused the government of favoring defense over social spending.

Of the total, 7.582 billion shekels are earmarked for unspecified security costs, which government sources said meant the Mossad intelligence agency and Shin Bet, which looks after internal security.

The balance is for military and other defense expenses, with some of the funds coming from annual U.S. aid and the general budget reserves.

In debate ahead of a vote, some lawmakers argued for more transparency regarding the extra funding.

“Why can’t they give even general explanations? They are forbidden from saying the Shin Bet and Mossad?” complained Meretz head Zehava Gal-On. “I am not the committee’s rubber stamp.

“The defense budget has become a sinkhole that draws from every budget and surplus … The defense budget keeps growing while the social budgets shrink,” she added.

Rabbi Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), chairman of the committee, called on the finance ministry to “change its behavior” regarding the defense budget, since every year the government asks for funds beyond its base budget.

Still, Rabbi Gafni urged committee members to approve the transfer since the extra funding was critical for national security.

Though the approval is binding, there will be a re-vote on Tuesday at the request of the opposition.