Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have reached an agreement on the final 2015 state budget, but a defense establishment source says the army will be able to request and potentially receive more funds as the year unfolds.
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Netanyahu and Lapid agreed that the defense establishment will receive an additional 6 billion shekels ($1.6 billion) for 2015. The defense budget will now stand at 57 billion shekels, with a further 7-8 billion shekels awarded in order to cover the expenses of Operation Protective Edge.
It was further agreed that the deficit target for the 2015 budget being presented to the cabinet will stand at 3.4% of gross domestic product and not include the raising of taxes.
According to a source in the defense establishment, all sides involved understand that requests for further additions to the 2015 budget will be made and granted over the course of the year. Otherwise, the army will be brought to a halt in the first months of the year.
"As far as the army is concerned, a supplement of 6 billion shekels ($1.6 billion) is unequivocally insufficient. This will force us to halt training exercises and will affect the equipping and strengthening of forces, including Iron Dome [anti-missile system]. Regular service soldiers will train less and perform more operational duties. The significance of such a budget will be presented to the prime minister, the cabinet and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee," the source said.
The source described the proposed supplement as a "bluff" and a repeat of last year. "If we and the treasury know that additional funds will be needed and will be granted in the course of next year, why do we need to play these games? Instead of finalizing everything now in an orderly manner, respectful to all sides, we find ourselves dragged into an unnecessary debate with a foregone conclusion. It's redundant, making the army start the year with unclear plans. This isn't some society game, it just damages the army."
It was reported last weekend that Netanyahu and Lapid reached a very similar agreement on the allocation of funds for defense, although the two did not make an official statement to that effect. However, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stated that the amount reported is not enough and that he intended to demand more for his ministry.