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      Netanyahu Defends Fiscal Reforms; Defense Budget

      PM Binyamin Netanyahu defended his fiscal reforms - and the defense budget - as 'social protests' enter doldrums.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 8/1/2011, 9:13 PM

      Netanyahu
      Netanyahu
      Flash 90

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday cuts to Israel's defense budget are not an option.

      "We must beware of simplistic statements claiming that it is possible to make cuts to the defense budget," Netanyahu said.
       
      Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin ascerbically replied "any time defense budget cuts are mentioned the defense budget gets an increase."
       
      During the meeting Netanyahu addressed current social unrest over affordable housing and Israel's rising cost of living, saying "the issues arising from the street are justified. We must tend to them without causing damage to the business sector." 
       
      "If Israel doesn't proceed responsibly in the financial context, we will find ourselves in the same situation as Greece and Spain," he added.
       
      Later, speaking at the Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu said the current government is "accomplishing things that haven't been done in decades. We have succeeded in lowering unemployment to it's lowest level in 30 years," which was at a record low of 5.7 percent in May. 
       
      Netanyahu also outlined the way in which his government is addressing complaints about the soaring cost of living in Israel.
       
      "We are tackling these issues in two ways: The first thing being addressed are cartels, as well as government and private monopolies. The other issue lies in the taxation system. It's good that [this social movement is] happening now, these important issues deserve our attention," he said.
       
      Netanyahu also addressed the housing reforms he has been working to pass in the Knesset, saying his government was "finishing up two years of dedicated work in order to unclog the pipes of two bureaucratic hurdles: firstly the management of Israeli lands, which will become governed by a much more efficient body, and secondly the housing-committees law."
       
      Netanyahu stressed that in order to build more apartments bureaucratic hurdles must be removed, adding that today the amount of time it takes before an apartment becomes available on the market from its most initial phase is "between five and seven years."
       
      Netanyahu's remarks come as opposition figures discuss Monday bringing no-confidence motions against his government. However, polls indicate Israelis want changes in policy rather than leadership.