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Defense Ministry to MKs: Pay for Your Own Helicopter

Ministry snubs Knesset members, refuses to provide helicopter, in possible tit-for-tat over funding.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/17/2011, 7:58 PM

Helicopters patrolling Jerusalem
Helicopters patrolling Jerusalem
Flash 90

A planned tour of southern Israel by the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee was cancelled Thursday because the Defense Ministry refused to approve helicopter flights to take the MKs there and back. The Ministry may be taking revenge on the Committee for not approving as much funding to the IDF as the Ministry desires.

The tour, described as "important," was supposed to take place Sunday. The MKs were to receive extensive briefings from Southern Command Head Major General Tal Rousso and other senior members of the defense establishment.

The MKS were to learn about the operational solutions the Command has for the growing threats from Sinai, and receive situation assessments regarding the construction of a security fence along the Egyptian border and the IDF bases that are moving to the Negev.

In addition they were to hear a presentation regarding the Air Force's plans for development.

The tour was planned and scheduled in advance, but on Thursday the Defense Ministry notified the Committee that it would not let its members travel to the Negev by helicopter unless the Knesset paid for the ride. In the past, members of the Committee on working tours have always been flown free of charge by the IDF.

A source close to Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Chairman MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) hinted that the refusal was a tit-for-tat move by the Ministry. Ever since Shaul Mofaz began running the committee, he said, it has become stricter in its approach to requests for additional budgets for the security establishment. Mofaz has said the Committee is not "a rubber stamp" of the Ministry. This position may have cost the Committee its planned ride on an IDF helicopter.