Netanyahu Proposes 3.3 Billion Shekel Increase for IDF

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli soldiers from the 669 Unit demonstrate a battlefield rescue operation, at a training base in central Israel. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ called for a 3.3 billion shekel increase in defense spending on Wednesday, ending a budgetary freeze caused by the absence of a permanent government for two years.

While the country was in political stalemate, Netanyahu’s interim government was not authorized to pass new budgets, and the IDF had to make do with monthly allowances based on one-twelfth of its 2018 budget.

In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said the decision was made following a discussion with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and other senior officials.

“The prime minister ordered the Finance Ministry, together with officials from the Defense Ministry, National Security Council, and the Prime Minister’s Office, to find sources of funding to add NIS 3.3 billion to the defense budget,” the statement read.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, this money will go to “funding routine IDF activities, [construction of the] Gaza border barrier, and other critical areas that cannot be delayed.”

However, the Finance Ministry was not on the same page with the PM and the IDF, according to Ynet. Officials there are insisting that in view of some 20 billion shekels of coronavirus emergency funding, that there is no money in the coffers for such an increase.

The IDF maintains that the funding in question does not constitute an increase in its budget, but rather is the fulfillment of the amount stipulated in a 2016 agreement between the then-defense and finance ministers.

It also follows provisions laid out in the IDF’s multi-year Gideon Plan, developed in 2015 by then-IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot and now in its final year, which calls for NIS 32 billion from the overall defense budget.