Netanyahu and Kochavi
Netanyahu and Kochavi Miriam Alster/Flash90

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi tried three times in the years 2019 and 2020 to obtain a budget to build an option for a military attack in Iran, but was refused by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 13 News reported on Monday.

At the start of its term, the Netanyahu government invested 11 billion shekels in preparing such a military option, according to the report. In 2019, during the election campaign, the Chief of Staff asked Netanyahu for several billion shekels to prepare for such an attack.

According to Channel 13 News, Netanyahu refused the request, explaining that in the absence of a state budget, such a budget could not be allocated. In November 2019, a new Minister of Defense took office - Naftali Bennett. Kochavi, it turns out, tried to use Bennett to get those billions of shekels, but Netanyahu again could not find a way to approve the budget, again due to the lack of a state budget.

The unity government was formed in 2020, and the person who replaced Bennett in the Ministry of Defense was Benny Gantz. He, too, sought a budget for the Iranian issue and he, too, was refused. Netanyahu did not pass a budget in the unity government which ultimately led to its downfall. However, the IDF and the Ministry of Defense found another solution, in the form of early receipt of a loan from the Americans. With the approval of the Attorney General, this advance was approved and various armaments were purchased.

A statement issued on behalf of opposition leader Netanyahu in response to the report said, "The one who has constantly pushed the defense establishment to budget and be prepared to attack Iran is Prime Minister Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu is the one who demanded in 2019 that part of the IDF budget be allocated for special means of an attack in Iran. He also defined this before the political-security cabinet and before the Ministry of Defense and the IDF as the "supreme goal for Israel's national security."

The statement added that "Netanyahu determined that preparations for an attack on Iran precede other arenas in the IDF's force building program. Netanyahu was also the one who solved the problem of the budget increase in 2020 by using a special repayment mechanism, which allowed an important addition to the existing preparations for an attack in Iran. All this was done in parallel with additional budgets that Netanyahu transferred to other bodies for the same purpose. This is based on detailed protocols of the cabinet and the security bodies."

In conclusion, said the statement issued on behalf of Netanyahu, "These false and tendentiousness leaks are a continuation of the attempt to dwarf Netanyahu's work on Iran and it is to be hoped that this false campaign is not intended to get the public opinion in Israel used to the current government's helplessness against Iran. Had it not been for Netanyahu's political, operational and budgetary actions over the past decade, Iran would have long ago had an arsenal of nuclear weapons."