Cabinet ministers approved mass budget cuts on Sunday to cover the cost of the recent military operation in Gaza.
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As ministers gathered to approve the cuts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said security is Israel's top priority. In his statement ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, held in the southern Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, Netanyahu said that he is open to the military's budgetary demands in this year and in the future.
The Defense Ministry demanded 9 billion shekels ($2.52 billion) to cover the costs of the 50-day Operation Protective Edge. The Defense Ministry also asked for an 11-billion-shekel increase in next year's budget, not including a future one-time budget supplement expected due to the conclusions of Operation Protective Edge.
At Sunday's cabinet meeting, the ministers were asked to approve about 2 million shekels ($561 million) in across-the-board cuts from the 2014 budget to fund the cost of the operation and costs associated with supporting Israeli communities near the Gaza border, the region that bore the brunt of the shelling, resulting in the widespread departure of residents for other parts of the country.
The savings from the cuts will in part provide an immediate allocation of about 1.5 billion shekels to the Defense Ministry for some of the costs incurred in the fighting. The plan, to be presented to the cabinet today by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, includes a 2% reduction in the base budget of every government ministry except the Defense Ministry.
Netanyahu promised that the cabinet will allocate 1.5 billion shekels in the next five years (300 million shekels each year) to Israeli communities located near the Gaza border. Next month, he added, the cabinet will be asked to approve a similar plan to support all southern residents.
Netanyahu expressed hope that quiet will be restored for a long period of time, but noted that Israel is prepared to every scenario in the region, whether in Gaza or in other fronts.