A Calorific Budget

When a wasteful, fat and sick organization like the IDF is given more carbohydrates and more sugar, instead of being put on a comprehensive weight-loss plan, the body does not recover.

Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has announced: "We are preparing for a deterioration in the North and also in Gaza." A senior military source has stated: "Syria is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in up-to-date weapons." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is furious: "Enough blather." After all, such talk is liable to lead to an unnecessary war.

But this isn't just a matter of talk. If Syria is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in refurbishing its army, how much is Israel investing? After all, Syrian President Bashar Assad has also read the recommendations of the Brodet Commission, which is recommending an immediate increase in the Israel Defense Forces' budget of NIS 3 billion for acquisitions and comprehensive strengthening, and that it continue to grow by NIS 46(!) billion in the next 10 years. This sum is several times greater than Syria's "hundreds of millions" of dollars.

The Brodet Commission for examining the security budget was established after the failure of the Second Lebanon War. Right in the introduction the commission puts paid to one of the biggest lies that both the former chief of staff and Olmert have spread: that the failure in the war derived from cuts to the defense budget made by Benjamin Netanyahu. The commission has determined that "no connection should be made between the results on the battlefield and the many flaws, and the size of the budget." Moreover, from 1995 to 1998, the defense budget was NIS 40-41 billion, and it grew to NIS 46-47 billion from 2005 to 2007. If so, how is it at all possible to talk about cuts?

But the IDF has already learned to exploit every event to obtain money. If we won the Six-Day War, it is still necessary to increase the budget because "the borders have expanded." And if we have left the Gaza Strip and shortened the lines, it is still necessary to increase the budget because a "redeployment" is needed. And if we failed in the Lebanon War, it is clear that additional money is needed for "strengthening."

So this time too the IDF has submitted a demand for a huge, unprecedented and illogical increase of NIS 140(!) billion for the next 10 years (of which it has received NIS 46 billion), scaring the commission members, in the best tradition, with horror scenarios about Syria and Iran regarding the bitter fate we can expect if its demands are not fulfilled.

The Brodet Commission took fright, and instead of demanding that the army become more efficient and use the money it saves for "strengthening," as any organization does when it carries out a recovery plan, it agreed to give the army an immediate add-on as well as a regular supplement starting in 2010: an increase of 1.3 percent to the military's budget annually.

But there is a problem here. If the IDF budget grows by 1.3 percent a year, it will not be possible to maintain an annual budget increase of 1.7 percent because there will be hardly anything left for the necessary increase in expenditures on health, education, welfare and infrastructure. And it is also necessary to fund salary rises and other legislation the Knesset has passed, so the blanket will not be long enough for everyone.

The Brodet Commission sat and pondered and found a typical Mapainik solution: a recommendation to increase the national budget by 25 percent annually (starting in 2010) instead of 1.7 percent. In this way everyone will be happy: both the security folk and the social folk.

The commission only forgot that in the background there is also the Israeli economy. It also ignored the lesson that was learned in 2003. At that time it was proven that for growth it is necessary to go on a strict public-sector diet. It is necessary to cut the budget for the "fat man" - the public sector - and leave many resources for the "thin man" - the private sector, which is the engine of growth.

In 2003, Benjamin Netanyahu determined that the budget would grow by only 1 percent annually, and this meant cuts and increased efficiency in the public sector. And indeed, the moment the weight of the freight cars decreased, the growth engine pulled the train faster, and we enjoyed growth of 5 percent a year.

But then Olmert came along and argued that an increase of 1 percent in public expenditure is too little; it is not sufficient for all the needs, so he raised the bar to 1.7 percent annually, in accordance with the population's natural growth rate. But this is peanuts compared with the Brodet Commission's irresponsible recommendation, which will lead to moral corruption in the IDF and the death of growth.

When a wasteful, fat and sick organization like the IDF is given more carbohydrates and more sugar, instead of being put on a comprehensive weight-loss plan, the body does not recover. In fact, it declines. It becomes fatter and sicker, to the point that its life is at risk.