Ya'alon Halts IDF Move to Negev

Defense Minister orders that the IDF’s move to the Negev be stopped, cites differences with Treasury over defense budget.

Ido Ben Porat,

Ya'alon and Lapid
Ya'alon and Lapid
Emil Salman/Flash 90

In what may be another sign of the disagreements between the members of the coalition, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday ordered that the IDF’s move to a new training complex in the Negev, known as Ir HaBahadim (lit. the city of training bases), be stopped.

Ya’alon cited his differences with Finance Minister Yair Lapid over the defense budget as the reason for his decision to stop the project. The Defense Ministry says that the Treasury promised to fund several defense-related projects, including the move to the Negev. The Finance Ministry maintains that the project has been accounted for within the defense budget for 2015.

The Defense Minister sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Lapid and Be’er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich, in which he writes that the Finance Ministry is not keeping its promise to transfer nine billion shekels for the project.

"I unequivocally state that the finance minister's statement that his office allocated sufficient funds in the defense budget for the execution of the project - is not correct," Ya’alon charged in the letter, the contents of which were published by Channel 2 News. "The Ministry of Finance presents a false picture of the allocation of resources to the defense budget."

The defense minister further stated, "The conduct on this issue significantly undermines the trust of the system and those who serve in the transition project and the issue is not being addressed as a national project as required. Moving IDF units to the Negev is a nationalist and significant move, and the defense system headed by me is making all the efforts to promote it and to implement it for the benefit of the IDF, the Negev and the State of Israel. Unfortunately, and as long as the Treasury ignores government decisions and agreements, this important project will not be promoted.”

Ya’alon’s letter may highlight the differences between Netanyahu and Lapid over budgetary issues.

In addition to arguments between the two over Lapid’s 0% VAT law, which Netanyahu has tried to shelve, the two have also been at odds over the state budget for 2015.

Netanyahu has called for an increase of "many billions" of shekels in defense spending following Operation Protective Edge, while Lapid has downplayed the expense of the operation and pushed for a modest defense budget.

Finally a compromise was reached in September, according to which the defense system will receive another 6 billion shekels as an addition to the 2015 budget (the defense budget in 2015 will be 57 billion shekels) and another 7-8 billion shekels to cover the expenses of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

The Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, Silvan Shalom, slammed Ya’alon’s decision to halt the project on Sunday evening.

"This is a difficult blow to the hundreds of thousands of the Negev's residents, and they should not be held hostage to the egocentric battles of politicians and government ministries," Shalom said.

"It is imperative for the heads of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense to resolve their differences and continue to execute this project which is so necessary for the State of Israel, as well as the development of the Negev as a whole," he added.