The new Home Front Defense Ministry is demanding a budget of NIS 67 million through the end of 2012, and the rest of the defense establishment isn't pleased, as it is already threatened with cuts of billions from its budget to help finance the Trajtenberg Committee's recommendations on socioeconomic reform.
The cabinet was scheduled to vote on the ministry's proposed budget - NIS 3.5 million for the remainder of 2011 and another NIS 63.6 million for 2012 - at its meeting on Monday. But in the end, it only approved the sum for this year and sent the ministry to discuss its 2012 budget with the Finance Ministry.
The new ministry was established nine months ago, when Defense Minister Ehud Barak and four other MKs split off from the Labor Party to found the Atzmaut party. That enabled Matan Vilnai to upgrade his position to home front defense minister from his previous job as Barak's deputy defense minister.
The Home Front Ministry's function is to coordinate various organizations involved in home front defense in times of emergency. It was built on the foundation of the National Emergency Management Authority, which was subordinate to the Defense Ministry.
But many in the defense establishment objected to the new ministry's establishment, claiming it was superfluous and in any case would continue to function as a unit of the Defense Ministry.
A few months ago, Vilnai insisted to Haaretz that the new ministry was justified. "Every normal country in the world, which faces smaller threats than we do, has such a ministry," he said. "The minute there is a minister, things will be different."
The Second Lebanon War of 2006 proved such a ministry was needed, he added, and its creation had nothing to do with Atzmaut's split from Labor.
A senior defense official said yesterday that home front defense had always been funded out of the Defense Ministry budget, "even after it received a greater emphasis in recent years. But the minute it was decided to establish another ministry for this matter, separate from the Defense Ministry, it was clear that it now needs to find its own budget, which will not come from the existing defense budget."
But a different Defense Ministry official said that if Barak wanted Vilnai's ministry to exist, the money would have to come from within the Defense Ministry budget.
Vilani's bureau said the new ministry's budget has yet to be finalized, and its size will be set in coordination with the treasury.
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