Steinitz Blasts IDF ‘Scaremongering’ in Fight Over Budget Cuts

Army insists that financial restraints will harm Israel’s national security.

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Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz yesterday accused the Israel Defense Forces top brass of inciting the public against the government. Commenting at the weekly cabinet meeting about the ongoing dispute over cutting the army’s budget, Steinmetz said that, “what is going on is an unprecedented campaign of threats and scaremongering. The government has decided, so the army must implement” its decisions.
In response, the Defense Ministry issued a statement saying it is “the responsibility of the government, including that of the finance minister, to listen to the professional assessment by the defense establishment ... As we have said, a cut in defense funds at this time means direct damage to [Israel’s] security.”
The statement added that it was “absurd to think that it’s possible to cut the budget while avoiding the cancelation of missions [and] the downsizing of projects ... While the defense establishment is a professional system, even it cannot work magic and produce something out of nothing.”
The finance minister’s comments came in response to interviews granted over the weekend by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, in which he expressed veiled criticism of the government’s decision not to expand the defense establishment’s annual budget
In an interview with Channel 2 on Friday, Gantz said he expected the government and the prime minister to “look at things from a broad perspective, to understand what’s at stake and to know how to allocate the funds according to the required [sense of] responsibility.”
Gantz added that his complaint was not directed against the Finance Ministry, which he said “looks at life through a financial prism,” adding “that’s their job.”
Despite a recent decision by the government not to accept the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendation to cut NIS 3 billion from the defense budget, the IDF has insisted it is facing an unprecedented budget crisis, and has threatened to cancel key projects, such as Rafael’s Iron Dome and the David’s Sling long-range missile defense system.
Last week, IDF officials indicated that the Israel Air Force could decide to stop acquisition of new anti-missile systems and ground warplanes in the coming fiscal year as a result of insufficient funds.
A top military official told Haaretz last week that the planned measures could severely impair the IDF’s war readiness, adding that the “government is aware of the gravity of situation, but until now our demand to reduce budget discrepancies has not been answered.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comment on the exchange, nor did other ministers.

Yuval Steinitz.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

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