JERUSALEM (Jun. 24)
The coalition factions in the Knesset mustered their forces today to reduce the inflated defense budget to its original size of IL 22 billion for the new fiscal year. The Knesset finance committed voted 240 to lop off an unwanted IL 500 million that was added to the budget last week by a surprise vote at a joint meeting of the finance and foreign affairs and security committees.
Conspicuously absent from today’s finance committee meeting were the Likud MKs and National Religious Party militants Zevulun Hammer and Yehuda Ben Meir who bolted coalition discipline last week to vote with the opposition party for the half billion Pound increase. Their defection and the absence of several Labor Alignment committee members resulted in an 18-17 vote in favor of the enlarged budget–much to the embarrassment of the government which considered it inflationary. Defense Minister Shimon Peres and Chief of Staff Gen, Mordechai Gur had lobbied vigorously for the increase before the joint committee last week despite the government’s desire to keep the defense budget down to IL 22 billion.
This was the first time a defense budget has not won unanimous approval by both coalition and opposition. Yitzhak Navon, chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee expressed regret over the split and said it could have been avoided. Ben Meir claimed that the out-back would harm “essential parts of the defense system.”