Steinitz Trying to Bury Brodet Recommendations, Say Defense Officials

Ahead of today's cabinet discussion on the 2011-2012 budget and proposed cuts to the defense budget, a top defense official accused the Finance Ministry of "trying to bury" the Brodet Committee recommendations. In 2007, the committee had called for increased defense spending.

"Things are being explicitly stated for the first time," the official told Haaretz. "During a ministerial discussion this week, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said he wants to take Brodet off the budget agenda. The ministry simply wants to eliminate Brodet. Now it's clear."

The committee headed by David Brodet, former director general of the Finance Ministry, was set up to study the issue of defense spending. It then laid down a specific path for defense spending to increase and called for substantial efficiency measures that would divert billions of shekels from areas such as wages to Israel's military force. (See full story on page 12. )

While the army claims that the efficiency measures set forth are too onerous, the army chiefs don't want the Brodet recommendations to be shelved. They would like them to be made binding, at least for the next five years.

"All the figures in hand demonstrate that Israel's economic situation is much better than the treasury claims," said the military source yesterday. The Finance Ministry wants to cut NIS 2.8 billion from the defense budget over two years, but according to the source there's no need, as the ministry has other places from which it can take the money.

"It doesn't need to be at the expense of defense," he said. "We aren't demanding a thing for ourselves, merely what is required by the Brodet Committee report: a stable budget that will allow us to enter into long-term commercial contracts and make long-term plans."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands the problem with taking risks with security, the source added, saying that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak understand each other well.

"The defense budget is a large target that's easy to attack, but the truth is more complicated than what the Finance Ministry is saying," said the defense source. "It's a pity we have to remind people that increases in the defense budget were made following revelations on the readiness of the IDF ahead of the Second Lebanon War in 2006."

The office of the finance minister stated that it neither confirms nor denies the quotes attributed to Steinitz. It also stated that the defense establishment has repeatedly breached the Brodet recommendations.