Will the defense budget be another victim of the housing protests?
Israel Defense Forces senior ranks understand that their lobbying for increasing next year's defense budget may fail in wake of the social protests sweeping Israel.
The social protests currently sweeping Israel will most probably foil the Israel Defense Forces’ plan to increase the defense budget for next year. If the protest movement intensifies, it may even lead to a reduction in the IDF’s budget.
Until the tent protests arrived on Rothschild Boulevard, it seemed as if the wind was blowing in another direction. Since the Second Lebanon War, Israel’s security forces have been in disagreement with the treasury over the implementation of the conclusions of the commission that looked at the IDF’s budget after the end of the war. The IDF was steadfast about the sections of the document which highlighted the gap between the needs of the security forces, and the actual size of its budget. The treasury, on the other hand, chose to emphasize the gap between the IDF’s commitment to streamlining, and what it had done to achieve this in practice.
But then the housing protest broke out, and with it the usual complaint: Were it not for the inflated defense budget, there would be healthcare, education and cheap housing for Israel’s masses. The IDF’s claim to the contrary, that only the quiet and security brought about by the IDF’s ceaseless efforts gives the Israeli public the chance to finally discuss economic problems, is not helping it. On a normal day, the defense forces are a strong lobby that gets what it wants, but that does not seem to be the case now.
The security forces’ position will be affected by the political weakness of those who stand at its head. the fact that Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has spent most of the period of the protests abroad on a work trip to Washington has not helped.
All this leaves IDF Chief Staff Benny Gantz quite alone. His predecessor, Gaby Ashkenazi, when in confrontation with Netanyahu over possible budget cuts two years ago, did not hesitate to form a political alliance with the head of Israel’s the Histadrut Labor Union, Ofer Eini. Today, this option is not open to Gantz.
The IDF’s main problem is that, this time, the public will not automatically take its side. Yesterday, the artillery corps displayed its armament system. This system is incredibly important on the battlefield, and has been kept under strict secrecy for years. The display received hardly any television coverage, as television channels are currently focused on the Israel housing protests (its seems like even if Israel had shown of its nuclear capabilities yesterday, theoretical of course, the news would have been buried a moment before Danny Rof).
At the time that artillery officers show off Israel’s arms system, journalists are only interested in costs. Two ‘Tammuz’ rockets that were fired yesterday during the exercise cost around one million shekels, or as one of the journalists described, they cost the same as a small apartment in central Tel Aviv.