New Battle Erupts over Defense Budget As Ministers Propose Further Cuts

The Ministerial Economic Committee slashed the budget by an additional IL 5.4 billion today, including IL 1-2 billion more from the defense budget which the Cabinet only last week reduced by IL 7 billion.

The decision, reached after two days of deliberations and subject to approval by the full Cabinet at its regular weekly meeting next Sunday, satisfied Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz but infuriated the defense establishment. Defense Ministry officials charged today that Hurwitz was trying to restore “by the back door” the original IL 15 billion cut in defense spending which he had demanded but which the full Cabinet rejected.

Defense officials said last week that they could live with the IL 7 billion reduction. But the Ministerial Economic Committee proposes taking away IL 9 billion, partly by imposing reductions of personnel on the Defense Ministry, and on other ministries as well. Defense sources expressed hope that the Cabinet will reject the committee’s recommendations.

Additional savings of IL 2.8 billion will come from a three percent reduction in civil service employees generally and from cuts in public services. Civil service personnel has been reduced by six percent since Hurwitz took office last year. The Histodrut Secretariat has begun discussions on how the budget cuts will affect employment and how to find new jobs for dismissed government workers.

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