Olmert and Barak clash but cabinet still okays Brodet report
Defense min., IDF chief warn that denying NIS 7 billion raise could have repercussions.
The cabinet yesterday approved the findings of the Brodet Commission for reforming security-related expenditure. However, the ministers decided that the commission's recommendation to increase the defense budget by NIS 7 billion will not be implemented before 2009.
The discussion on the defense budget and the implementation of the commission's recommendations went on for seven hours straight. Defense Minister Ehud Barak demanded the defense budget be increased immediately, sparking a harsh exchange of words between representatives of the defense and finance ministries.
The current defense budget, Barak warned, does not allow Israel to cope with the threats posed by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. Barak added that he needed an additional NIS 7 billion for developing missile protection systems, increasing the Israel Defense Forces by two ground divisions, improving the army's ability to operate on enemy territory and to replenish supplies.
Barak also requested the cabinet postpone deliberations over the Brodet recommendations by three additional weeks, which should be used for reviewing the report. However, a majority of 16 ministers voted in favor of postponing the NIS 7 billion hike in the defense budget. Five ministers, all from Barak's Labor Party, voted against the delay.
In so doing, the cabinet decided on immediate implementation of all other Brodet Commission recommendations, including cuts in the defense budget, which are aimed at improving efficiency.
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi warned Finance Ministry officials in the meeting that they would bear responsibility for potential repercussions if they refused to increase the defense budget in accordance with the commission's conclusions.
Following the cabinet's decision, the treasury and the Defense Ministry will now have to negotiate the budget of 2008, as in previous years. The final decision, as always, will be in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's hands.
Military representatives have said that the findings of the committee, which harshly criticized the IDF's wartime spending, were out of touch with reality, the Winograd Committee's recommendations and other security developments.
Olmert established the Brodet Committee on November 13, 2006, following the Second Lebanon War, and after the army had demanded a large budget increase to prepare for the next conflict. The commission submitted its recommendations last June.
It recommended that efficiency be improved through a succession of steps pertaining to utilization of manpower and munitions. It also proposed that the budget be adapted to IDF programs and the threat assessment.
Additionally, the commission proposed adopting a multi-year budget for the IDF, to address such critical areas as readiness and serviceability, and that minimal requirements be clearly stated. Additionally, the commission sought to introduce a link between growth in national product and the budget, by raising the budget by 2.5 percent per annum.
In addition, the Brodet Commission also recommended the proposed introduction of external control over the defense budget. It suggested that the National Security Council be given a central role in that respect on behalf of the prime minister.