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The direct cost of the war in Lebanon totaled NIS 11.2 billion, including NIS 3.5 billion for ammunition and NIS 1 billion for the reserves, Israel Defense Forces officers told the Knesset Committee on the Defense Budget yesterday.

An estimated 237,000 artillery shells were fired during the war, they added.

The Finance Ministry and the defense establishment are at odds over restoring the army's preparedness, which is expected to cost NIS 7 billion to NIS 7.5 billion. The defense establishment wants to complete the job within one year, while the treasury wishes to spread the cost over three years.

Some Knesset members suggested using some of the $1.75 billion that Israel receives annually from the United States. But defense officials said that for the next few years, most of this aid is already committed to buying Apache helicopters, F-16 planes, air force ammunition and fuel.

The committee authorized an additional NIS 1.75 billion for the defense establishment, of which NIS 600 million will be used to cover war expenses - NIS 300 million for the reserves and NIS 300 million for supplies, including fuel and ammunition. The remaining NIS 1.15 billion is compensation for the fact that an American pledge for this amount, to cover the costs of the pullout from Gaza, never arrived.

But committee members said that they would demand greater transparency from the defense establishment as a condition for future budget transfers, including a detailed breakdown of expenses.

MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) said that war is an expensive business and asked why no cost-benefit analysis had been done. "Clearly, budgetary issues must be considered in a war, and I get the impression that the budgetary issue was not top priority," he said.

Committee Chair MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) said that yesterday's debate would be a prelude to others.