PM Defends Defense Budget Hike
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected criticism on Wednesday of an NIS 1.6 billion dollar hike in Israel's defense budget.
"We have to keep the balance and defend our citizens and our budget," the prime minister said at a Kadima-initiated discussion called "Netanyahu government's failures."
"There is no defense without a good economy; defense costs a lot of money," he said.
Netanyahu's comments were in response to criticism from leftist politicians who say he is ignoring the socio-economic changes demanded by some citizens last summer.
The debate comes amid an intense internal brouhaha between Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak over transparency in defense spending and attempts to "cut the fat."
Not only is Israel eyeing Iran, but the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council is moving to form a diplomatic and military union - and to expand its ranks to include countries on Israel's borders.
As a result, advocates for increased defense spending say, the hike is not sufficient to underwrite what Israel's military may be tasked to undertake in the coming years. Israel's defense budget is 6.9% of its GDP. While higher than many countries, it remains almost 11% lower per capita than defense spending in the United States.
"We are still passing [the Trajtenberg recommendations] chapter by chapter. We passed the taxes, the competition and articles on making the government more efficient," Netanyahu explained. "We haven't forgotten housing."
Netanyahu also took aim at his most vocal critic, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, whose Kadima party ruled the last government coalition.
"I didn't see these benefits when you were in charge," Netanyahu told her.