Putting a Price on Israel's Security

The economy is no less important than weaponry. A prudent defense budget will achieve higher security at lower cost.

Two fundamental questions must take center stage in the discussions of the defense budget. The first question relates to the goals of defense: Are we defending a state whose hand is outstretched in peace? In other words, are we defending a state that welcomes the Arab Peace Initiative, which is based on the Israel of the June 4, 1967 lines, with mutually agreed-upon adjustments that will be formulated in negotiations with our neighbors? Or are we defending a state that annexes territory unilaterally (in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights ), thereby ensuring that the conflict will continue? And what quality of life does this state aspire to give the citizens, residents and aliens that reside within its borders?

The answers to these questions form the basis for determining Israel's goals with regard to defending its sovereignty and the lives of those who live here. "Human life" is not an accurate measure. According to the State Comptroller's Report published last week, thousands of patients die in Israel every year due to infections contracted in hospitals. This is a shocking statistic, many times larger than the number of those who have died in all of Israel's wars since 1948. Yet it is accepted with equanimity because it isn't security-related.

The implication is that Israel's society and government must decide to what extent it is reasonable to invest in certain things at the expense of others. Is investing in separate roads in the territories preferable to funding another Iron Dome antimissile battery that would defend another city in the Negev, or an offensive weapon that would shorten the duration of a war? Or perhaps it's preferable to invest in preventing infections in hospitals?

The second question, which is no less important, relates to the way the defense establishment uses the funds at its disposal. The conclusion from the data to date is that the defense establishment has created an inflated standard of living for itself and wastes its resources, apparently because it knows that in the name of security it can receive whatever budget it wants. It's essential to demand that the defense establishment meet its goals while using the money at its disposal much more efficiently and adjusting its standard of living to reflect the public's ability to finance it.

National security isn't just an army. Diplomatic agreements achieve important security goals; the economy is no less important than weaponry; and making intelligent, efficient, careful use of the budget at the defense establishment's disposal will achieve a higher level of security at a lower cost than what we have now.

All of the above require a revolutionary approach to the price Israel is justified in paying for security, as well as to the way the defense budget is managed. But such an approach won't come from the army. It must come from the government.