Kahlon, Liberman Spar Over Releasing Soldiers’ Bonus

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli soldiers sit atop a tank as they watch the border with Syria near the Quneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria, on the Golan Heights. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is opposed to a proposal by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to transfer to IDF soldiers their demobilization bonus for personal use immediately upon their release from the army, and not five years after their release, as is currently the case. In response to Kahlon’s stance, Liberman’s office said that the change would not impact the state budget, as Kahlon apparently feared. “The budget is already there, and the money belongs to the soldiers,” Defense Ministry officials were quoted as saying on the Evening News, broadcast on Channels 12 and 13.

In a letter to the Defense Ministry, Finance Ministry officials said that the change would cost the state NIS 4 billion that had not been previously budged. “This would have a major impact on the state budget. The Finance Ministry firmly opposes this proposal in its current form,” the letter said. In response, the Evening News quoted Defense Ministry officials as saying that they “hoped that the finance minister will instruct officials to support the proposal. Given the current surplus in the state budget, there should be no problem funding this proposal.”

The Ministerial Law Committee is set to discuss the law Sunday. The proposal includes not just the immediate release of the bonuses, but the removal of all limitations on the use of the money. Currently, soldiers either get the payments five years after their release from the army, or have the option to use the money to pay tuition, start a business, buy a house, or get married if they want to take advantage of the money within five years of their release. Soldiers do not get the money, but instead submit invoices which the army pays.