The government debated and argued on Sunday but couldn't reach a decision, even though we simply can't ignore the economic truth: The planned budget cuts are a precondition for carrying out the Trajtenberg Committee's recommendations.
The moment the committee's recommendations on socioeconomic change were made public, there was no doubt there would be a budget cut. The committee recommended cuts to the defense budget, thus allocating funds for free education from age 3 and job training for the ultra-Orthodox. And it turns out we've already gone over budget by NIS 2.2 billion because of the agreements with the doctors, the high-school teachers, the minimum-wage increase and several private member's bills passed in the Knesset. In all, a NIS 5.4 billion cut is necessary.
But this clear truth made no impression on Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who stood up on his hind legs to fight any cuts on his turf; he also went to great lengths to inform his fellow ministers about the grave dangers surrounding Israel, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and Egypt. Instead of cuts at his own ministry and elsewhere, Barak again suggested that we widen the deficit - a grave mistake and a sign of Barak's weak grasp of the economy.
But Barak isn't alone in opposing cuts at his ministry. Other ministers have joined him such as Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, who warns about the damage to Israeli society, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who says there must be a fair solution for everyone who serves in the Israel Defense Forces and then joins the workforce, and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who talks about defending the weaker segments of society while actually defending his own voters.
It's true that the best solution would be if most of the cuts were to the inflated and wasteful defense budget, but it seems Barak frightened the prime minister as well: Now the cut to the defense budget is lower than it should have been.
In the end, there is no alternative but to approve the cuts - something that hurts all ministries and services but allows the implementation of the Trajtenberg Committee's recommendations. Any other solution, such as enlarging the deficit or increasing taxes, would be worse and put Israel in the kind of crisis afflicting Greece, Italy and Spain. And nobody wants that.
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