Barak: Israel can't cut defense budget to meet social demands
Defense Minister comments come amid calls to slash defense spending in wake of recent social protests; Barak calls ongoing social movement an opportunity for a 'new deal between the government and the citizens'.
Amid recent calls for the slashing of Israel’s security budget, Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded Thursday that “life itself precedes quality of life”, and that an investment in the country's security is an “insurance policy”.
In an interview with The Marker, Barak stated that the Defense Ministry is already cutting its NIS 40 billion budget, but that the Israeli social protesters will not find their “salvation” in said cuts.
“There is no possibility to implement these cuts to assist the public without exposing Israeli citizens to danger,” said Barak.
Barak’s statements come as a response to tent protesters and government agencies, including the Finance Ministry, who have been eyeing the defense budget as a possible source of cuts in order to fund social programs.
According to the 2007 Brodet Committee - formed to review the needs of the defense establishment - the current defense budget does not meet the defense establishment's needs, and it has eroded by more than NIS 9 billion because it is not being adjusted for inflation, the officials said.
The defense minister also referred to the possibility of political tensions and potential violent flare-ups diverting the government’s attention away from responding to ongoing social protests, saying he felt social matters will be met with all seriousness, despite a complex political situation.
"On one hand, there are dramatic developments in Egypt and Syria, but I don't think that could affect protest-related issues," Barak said, adding that while one could not rule out the possibility of an attack originating in Gaza, that too should not divert attention from social concerns.
Speaking of the possibility of Palestinian riots in the wake of the planned UN vote on Palestinian statehood, the defense minister said he felt Israel was "not on the verge of a third intifada."
"We've been preparing ourselves along with the police and the Shin Bet for a few months now ahead of possible protests, so to prevent them from nonviolent protests from escalating into violence."
Moreover, Barak also told The Marker that the ongoing social protests present an opportunity for a “new deal between the government and the citizens, for both the middle class and the weaker layers of society.”
“We have the opportunity for a new social order – this opportunity to bring about deep changes that will renew Ben Gurion’s vision for a just society”, said Barak. He further claimed that that in the event that the tent protests come to an end, it will not affect a “historic opportunity for change”.