Defense Ministry Demanding NIS 20 Billion for War Costs
The government is seeking to cut NIS 1.9 billion from the state budget in order to pay for Operation Protective Edge, but further cuts should be expected, because the Defense Ministry's budget is likely to be increased. At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that while Israel had many needs, “security comes first. I hope we will have quiet for a long time to come, but we are prepared for any scenario on the Gaza front and other fronts.” The meeting took place in the offices of the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.
NIS 1.9 billion is set to be pulled from the budgets of state ministries, including the Education, Health, and Agriculture Ministries. The money will be funneled to paying off expenses associated with the recent Gaza war, including allocations for compensation for residents, businesses, and farmers. That plan alone will be worth some NIS 1.5 billion, Netanyahu said. More money will be allocated later on for development projects to enhance growth in southern communities, with benefits provided for new residents and businesses that open up in communities near Gaza.
Those expenses only scratch the surface, however. Government sources said that the Defense Ministry was demanding an additional NIS 20 billion ($5.4 billion) to replace equipment used in the war, and to expand defense capacity in the wake of the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. That number is not final, and is likely to be increased, the sources said.
MKs in the opposition protested vigorously against the budget cuts. MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) said that “it is crazy that they are cutting money meant for the poor and middle class only” and not for the wealthy. MK Zehava Gal-on (Meretz) said that “our children and grandchildren will still be paying for Protective Edge.” Also protesting the cuts was former Bank of Israel chairman David Klein, who called the budget cuts “irrational” and “indicative of a lack of coherent policy.”