|Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Photo: Yaron Brenner) Photo: Yaron Brener|
Defense official: Defending against terror is an expensive endeavor
Ya'alon and Gantz clash with Lapid and Bennett over military's request for significant hike in 2015 defense budget.
As the government prepares for the negotiations over the 2015 budget, the security cabinet convened in Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss the financial consequences of Operation Protective Edge.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz briefed the assembled ministers on the costs of the operation, which he said stood at 9 billion shekels. Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon presented the security establishment's needs and goals for 2015, which they claimed to require a budget injection of 11 billion shekels.
The presentation spurred fierce debate between Ya'alon and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who opposes any additional defense funding beyond the already-budgeted 52 billion shekels.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
The cabinet meeting did not end with a vote on the topic, meaning further deliberations are expected in the coming days.
According to cabinet sources, the Wednesday meeting revolved around the explanations given by security representatives who claimed that "whoever wants security in the south, Iron Dome batteries, and a continuing campaign against terror organizations, must realize that these efforts are not cheap."
Lapid, however, has clarified several times in recent weeks that he strongly opposed any additional funding, asking the defense establishment to consider efficiency measures. At the Calcalist Convention on Tuesday, Lapid said "there are places within the security establishment that we can streamline to save funds."
The Finance Ministry has said in recent days that – because of the operation – government ministries will be asked to make budget cuts, many of which had already been approved by the government on Sunday. Lapid also reiterated his promise to not raise taxes.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at Calcalist conference (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Defense Minister Ya'alon also addressed the budgetary crisis, insisting that though the existential threats faced by Israel have decreased significantly following the peace with Egyptian and Jordan – and Syria's descent into civil war – "when we are dealing with terror organizations that have political capabilities, it is an expensive challenge for a military."
Ya'alon emphasized that achieving objectives similar to those of Operation Protective Edge required costly intelligence efforts. "The current Military Intelligence director has twice the budget I had when I was in the role 16 years ago; even if I were to triple that budget, not a single shekel would go to waste."
He stressed that "the only thing limiting us from obtaining better intelligence is a lack of funds. The enemy also knows how to use technology, and we must counter that to defend ourselves. We have invested significantly in intelligence operations and we remain prepared, but it is expensive."
Ya'alon explained that intelligence collection allowed for preparing the "exact munition which allows us to hit the target while preventing wounding children."
But Lapid found a source of support in an unlikely cabinet member, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett who broke down the budget problem: "If they become more efficient, they will receive a budgetary injection; if not, they won't."
Bennett said that the degree of sacrifice should determine the wages and salaries of security personnel. "Should a soldier hurt in a traffic accident be placed in the same category as a soldier wounded in Sajaiyya? Is a soldier hurt while committing a crime equal to a soldier wounded in Bint Jbeil? Support soldiers should not be eligible for the same benefits as combat troops. A test of their sacrifice must determine the difference."
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