Opposition: Defense Budget Not Approved Due to Gov't Crisis

Knesset defense budget panel chairman MK Uri Ariel cancels meeting slated for Sunday due to dismissals of National Union ministers.

Zvi Zrahiya
Haaretz Correspondent
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Zvi Zrahiya
Haaretz Correspondent

The chairman of the Knesset defense budget committee, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) decided to cancel a meeting scheduled for Sunday morning, in which panel members were to approve the defense budget for the year 2004.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon were scheduled to attend the meeting.

Ariel said he was canceling the meeting because of the dismissal of National Union ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Binyamin Elon and the expected resignation of his faction from the coalition, due to the party's objection to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.

Committee member MK Avshalom Vilan (Yahad) said Saturday that Ariel was acting irresponsibly in canceling the meeting. "I expected him to finally approve the defense establishment budget, regardless of his membership in the coalition," Vilan said. "He is behaving like the leader of a band of settlers, not like a legislator with public responsibility," Vilan added.

"It doesn't seem right to me to approve the defense budget while I am on my way out of the coalition," Ariel said in response. The National Union said that Ariel cannot participate in the panel meeting because the faction is scheduled to convene at the same time to discuss the dismissals of the two ministers.

Since the beginning of 2004, the defense establishment has been operating on a monthly budget based on the previous year's budget, due to Ariel's continued refusal to approve the budget.

Ariel will probably be dismissed from his position as chairman when the National Union faction resigns from the government, because the role of panel chairman is reserved for a delegate who is a coalition member.

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