Intelligence Service Budgets Soared by 10% in 2013 to 6.6 Billion Shekels

Mossad and Shin Bet allotted $1.9 billion last year, marking eighth straight year budget has risen

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen.Credit: Emil Salman
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Israel intelligence agency budgets increased by 10 percent  in 2013 to 6.63 billion shekels ($1.9 billion,) according to data published by the Finance Ministry.

The treasury figures, published on an online government database, show that the Mossad espionage agency and the Shin Bet security service had a combined regular budget of 6.48 billion shekels, in addition to 156 million shekels of expenses that were conditioned upon on income. In 2012, the agencies had a combined regular budget of 5.91 billion shekels and 269 million conditioned upon income.

The agencies’ budget has risen every year since 2006, when it stood at only 4.28 billion shekels.

The budget for the two intelligence agencies doesn’t its own line item in the annual budget passed by Knesset. Instead, it’s initially included in the general budget and subsequently transferred to the defense budget with authorization from the Knesset Finance Committee. This enables the agencies’ budget to remain shrouded in secrecy without disclosing what the money is used for, or even how much goes to the Mossad and how much to the Shin Bet.

The fact that their budget is subsumed under another category increases that defense budget beyond the level approved by the Knesset in the annual budget law. A senior defense official criticized this practice on Wednesday, saying it results in much of the public thinking the defense budget is more than 60 billion shekels, when in fact, the funding available to the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces is billions of shekels less.

In November, Haaretz reported that pensions for Mossad and Shin Bet retirees — which are funded entirely out of the state budget, rather via a pension fund to which agency personnel must contribute during their working years — cost the government 871 million shekels in 2013 alone. But unlike the agencies’ operating budgets, their pension costs are listed separately, under the code names “security 1” and “security 2.” That makes it possible to determine that slightly more than half this sum, or 442 million shekels, goes to Shin Bet pensioners, while the remaining 429 million shekels go to Mossad retirees.