As Iran’s supreme leader defiantly called on his country’s Revolutionary Guards to mass produce missiles, and Iran’s president declared the country would not surrender its nuclear program, Israel Defense Forces reserves commanders appealed to the government for funding, warning of low levels of preparedness.
Some 20 commanders in the reserves at the infantry squad commanders school sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Finance Minister Yair Lapid attesting to the unpreparedness within their company, which they said had not undergone training in three and a half years.
Meanwhile, the officials in the IDF and the defense establishment rejected allegations that the army’s money management was irresponsible and that it was needlessly sounding alarms and the Finance Ministry threatened that “any additional budget to defense would inflict damage on the government’s civilian budget.”
The commanders urged the Finance and Defense ministries to cut pensions and what they called luxuries — such as overnight stays in hotels — to add to the training budget. They sought to change the budgetary priorities to redirect more funds to training, which they said has ceased to exist. The letter said it was not important which ministry was right in the dispute, but what was important was maintaining army preparedness.
“The IDF has already undertaken an extensive process of shutting down armored brigades, squadrons and 5,000 layoffs among IDF personnel,” an IDF source said, adding that Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was weighing whether to stop training, which could ultimately close certain squadrons and impede intelligence-gathering efforts.
“The defense budget has gone down in absolute terms over the past several years compared to the state budget and the Finance Ministry [budget]. Already now we are operating under a budget that is 5 percent below gross domestic product, the minimum set by the Brodet [committee]. Saying that defense is battling health, welfare and education is scandalous,” an IDF source said.
Gantz’s financial adviser, Brig. Gen. Ram Aminoach, said, “If we cut — we get less.”
Previous reports noted that public security was still receiving the proper budget, but defense officials said the civilian element of public security, including training, had indeed received budget, while the IDF element had only received partial budget.
“Even saving a few million shekels, it’s like breathing air. The establishment is in distress. We are living in an unpredictable region. And if we aren’t ready — we will find ourselves in serious trouble,” a security source said.
Officials in the Finance Ministry were furious over the Defense Ministry’s request for additional billions of shekels.
“Defense received 3 billion additional shekels [$867 million] and now they’re looking to get more and more,” a Finance Ministry official said. “How is it possible to operate a budget when every few months they come asking for more? It’s a constant ritual. It is impossible to provide free education if we have to provide more money to defense. We cannot provide more to the defense budget without touching civilian budgets, such as transportation, education, health or any other such thing.”
SOURCE: Lilach Shoval and Hezi Sternlicht