Social protests expanding but prime minister stresses – defense budget cuts not an option. At a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We must beware of simplistic statements claiming that it is possible to make cuts to the defense budget."
Following the protest leaders' demands for a change in priorities, ending privatization and a transfer of funds to the education, welfare and health systems, Netanyahu emphasized: "If Israel doesn't proceed responsibly in the financial context, we will find ourselves in the same situation as Greece and Spain."
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At that point Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin interrupted and remarked sarcastically that "any time defense budget cuts are mentioned the defense budget gets an increase."
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu discussed the situation in the Likud faction meeting. "Today we are ending two years of hard work to remove the blocks from the real estate market." Netanyahu also stressed his determination to pass the Land Administration Reforms and the National Housing Committees Law.
As for the stagnation in negotiations with the Palestinians and the Palestinian initiative to receive UN recognition, Netanyahu told the committee that "the US made it clear that the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas will have consequences, mainly economic ones.
Minimize soldier exposure"I am willing to meet with Mahmoud Abbas at any given moment – as early as tonight even but that won't be possible because they want to get to the UN in any case without making any of the compromises needed for an agreement. If the Palestinians want to promote an end to the conflict they have a true partner," he added.
Netanyahu also addressed the matter of the Palmer Report on 2010's Turkish flotilla to Gaza. The publication of the report was postponed several times due to a disagreement over whether to apologize to Ankara.
"We have fought over the conditions and framework of the founding of the committee and that is a great achievement for Israel," the prime minister said. "We want to minimize the exposure of IDF soldiers to legal claims and for that the Turks demand some degree of an apology. It is a complex issue which is why it has not as yet been solved.
"An apology can mitigate the possibility of Turkey suing the soldiers. The committee conclusions place Israel in a better position."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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