TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged his government to pass, by close of business Monday, a 2013-2014 budget that includes some US $14.7 billion in defense spending, nearly $1 billion less than 2012 levels but $280 million more than cuts prescribed by the Israeli Treasury.
The nearly $1 billion in defense spending cuts includes a 3 billion shekel ($840 million) rescission from the government’s shekel-based budget and a five percent cut — some $155 million — in annual US military aid due to US government-mandated sequestration.
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid sought to cut Israeli defense spending by 4 billion shekels ($920 million) through 2014 as part of a governmentwide deficit reduction program.
But after a late night meeting of Israel’s security cabinet and a detailed threat assessment by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and top generals, government ministers agreed to restore one billion shekels ($280 million) to Treasury-proposed defense cuts.
Citing Israel’s need to preserve its “two central fronts — defense and offense,” Netanyahu urged his government to endorse a more moderate level of defense spending cuts. “I want to make clear that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), its commanders, its warfighters and its weapon systems are critical to the defense of all Israelis,” Netanyahu told cabinet ministers at the start of the government’s weekly meeting Monday.
“The offensive front is clear; the defensive front is increasingly expanding to include our entire homefront, all of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli premier insisted that the defense establishment would continue to realize savings through efficiency measures, yet urged ministers to endorse the compromise 3-billion-shekel cut.
“The moderation of 1 billion shekel will not come at the expense of the public ... We need more Iron Domes, and I believe that this [compromise] path I propose today will provide the correct balance between the needs of the economy and our security needs,” he said.
Netanyahu insisted that a government decision on defense spending would allow Israel to pass a budget through 2014. “At the end of the day, the state of Israel must have a budget.”