Revealed: The Secret War Over IDF Officers' Exorbitant Salaries

News of battle comes after revelation of shady deal in which army arranged NIS 3m pension for MK Shai.

The Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, has a monthly salary of NIS 68,060; a major general makes NIS 48,265 a month; and a brigadier general makes NIS 39,340 a month. The average monthly salary in Israel is close to NIS 8,000. While questions are occasionally raised as to the disparity between these sums, it appears that there are other potentially highly inflammatory data about military wages that the army is hiding.

This week, TheMarker revealed that MK Nahman Shai will receive the pension of a brigadier general for his whole life, after only having held the rank for less than three years (as head of the IDF Spokespersons' Unit), despite the fact that to receive such a salary, an officer needs to have served at the rank for more than three years. In order to enable the Kadima lawmaker to receive the lavish pension, valued at an estimated NIS 3 million, the Israel Defense Forces arranged for Shai to take an unpaid vacation for almost five years - which enabled him to buy a huge pension at the expense of the public purse, at a dirt cheap price.

Whoever questions how the IDF cooks up these shady deals regarding senior officers' leaving conditions, and how the deals are not exposed and criticized, will receive an answer immediately. The simple answer is that everything connected to the terms of military pensions remains unknown, beyond any kind of external supervision. A very senior defense establishment official described the matter as a "black box" that is at the center of a quarrel between the Finance Ministry and the IDF. This took place after the Defense Ministry's accountant, Tzahi Malah, was authorized for the first time ever to examine IDF salaries. Malah subsequently began an inspection, during which he became suspicious that there were irregularities. Apparently these were found in the way the army credits major generals' complementary cars as being taxed.

But Malah's inspection was brought to an abrupt halt at the very moment suspicions arose of irregularities in IDF salaries. "The Defense Ministry accountant began the check, which raised suspicions of alleged salary irregularities, but the check was not completed," a defense establishment recalled. "The check has been carried sluggishly since then, due to difficulties the army has made."

"Making difficulties" is apparently an understatement for how the army simply booted Malah out, banning him from continuing to inspect salaries. Since then, the Finance Ministry's accountant general has been holding negotiations with the IDF, in an attempt to allow for the inspection to continue; in the meantime, the talks have been fruitless.

The fact that the army's system for wage payments is beyond the supervision of the Defense Ministry's accountant sparks considerable dismay. In complete contrast to this, the accountant can check every other payment made in the Defense Ministry - payments that are made through the Enterprise Resource Planning system, to which the accountant has access.

The IDF's payment system, however, is not included in the ministry's ERP software, a situation for which the army has many reasons. "The IDF's wages system was built many years ago; the IDF has no motivation for joining the ERP system, and this upgrade is being currently examined within budgetary limits," the IDF relayed. These excuses do not cover the fact that the accountant in the Defense Ministry is blind as far as military salaries are concerned. He reports on a monthly basis on the data the army gives him, but he has no direct access to the system from which this comes.

Not only does Malah have no direct access, but when suspicions are raised as to problems in the system, the army "makes difficulties" until the end of the inspections. There is a culture of cooperation in the Defense Ministry with the in-house accountant (despite the mistakes made during the Paris Air Show). But this culture is completely non-existent in the IDF, it appears.

What will bring the IDF to disclose the data?

It is reasonable to assume that whoever makes difficulties and whoever refuses to cooperate with inspections apparently has something he wants to hide. However, it is impossible to know how much he has that he wishes to hide while the IDF's salary date is not disclosed.

But it appears that there is no one who can bring the IDF to disclose its data. The ministry in charge of supervising the army, the Defense Ministry, has shirked the responsibility and given up on the desire to clash with the IDF on the matter. The ministry leaves such battles to be fought by its accountant, who is a Finance Ministry official - and everyone is comfortable with the Treasury waging wars.

The Finance Ministry, however, has no power to force the IDF to disclose the data; this is wielded only by the political establishment. In Israel's leadership, as is widely known, the futures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak depend on one another; therefore, it is doubtful whether a politician can be found who will force Barak to make such a disclosure.

The IDF says in response that it "operates with full transparency and cooperates with the Defense Ministry and income tax in everything connected to the issue of wages. Salary data is transferred automatically to the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry accountant at the Defense Ministry every month.

"In the IDF, inspections are carried out by income tax auditors, and all of their recommendations are fully implemented. An inspection by the Defense Ministry accountant has recently been held in the IDF, and in these days there is another check by income tax [auditors] has begun; both inspections have been carried out with full cooperation by the IDF."