The first session of the new government under Binyamin Netanyahu’s stewardship revealed that the Public Security Ministry has not received most of the money it needs to provide security for Pope Benedict XVI’s planned visit in May.

The outgoing government under Ehud Olmert set aside NIS 43 million for security for the papal visit, including NIS 6 million for upgrading the infrastructures at tourist sites included in his itinerary.

However, according to Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich, the Finance Ministry has thus far only transferred NIS 5 million for this purpose. Most of this money was earmarked for improvement of roads and infrastructures, and not for security.

Aharonovich complained that “the Finance Ministry is trying to kill two birds with one stone: pay for the improvements for the upcoming visit and avoid future demands by the local government councils. Meanwhile, the budget for police security for the visit is being neglected,” the former Deputy Police Commissioner said.

Aharonovich noted that in the current state of affairs, the police will not be able to provide proper security for the Pope, and if it does, it will not be able to pay for other upcoming security projects, like the Meron festivities and the so-called “Nakba Day” in which Arabs mourn their defeat in 1948.

“We will secure the visit, but the police will take a blow,” he warned.

Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed the new Minister of Finance, Yuval Steinitz, to meet with Aharonovich and find a solution to the problem.

The Finance Ministry said that “the government has yet to decide on the sources for funding the Pope’s visit to Israel.” Minister Stas Misezhnikov was appointed to coordinate the papal visit and he also intends to weigh in and try to solve the dispute.