TEL AVIV (Nov. 25)
The Cabinet met today to discuss the sensitive issue of budget cuts in the defense establishment. The five-hour session was held in the underground “War Room” at army General Headquarters here, a venue deliberately selected by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Apparently it was Rabin’s intention to impress upon his Cabinet colleagues the serious nature of cuts in the defense budget by having them meet in the bunker-like “nerve center” of military operations, surrounded by maps and sophisticated equipment. The meeting was officially declared a session of the Ministerial Defense Committee, the deliberations of which are top secret.
It was evident, however, when the ministers emerged, that they all are well aware of the tremendous difficulties of balancing cuts, made urgent by Israel’s economic crisis, against the costs of an adequate defense.
Rabin reportedly made it clear that any cuts in the defense budget that may be decided would require a reduction of military activities including research, planning and production and the day-to-day activities of the Israel Defense Force. Those consequences, Rabin is said to have stressed, must be the responsibility of the entire Cabinet and all of its political sectors, rather than a Defense Minstry decision.
Premier Shimon Peres instructed the ministers to speed up their decisions on cuts in their own respective ministerial budgets. He called a special session of the Cabinet for next Friday to continue deliberations on the subject.
‘GUNS COME BEFORE BUTTER’
Although no details emerged from today’s meeting in the War Room, one minister, not identified, was heard to remark later that “if it comes down to guns or butter, I would have to say that guns come before butter. You can do without butter. It’s more healthy anyway.”
The ministers were briefed today by Maj. Gen. Ehud Barak, chief of military intelligence; Air Force Commander Gen. Amos Lapidot; Navy Commander Ze’ev Almog; Gen. Dan Shomron, commander of ground forces; and Gens. Amos Yaron and Haim Erez, commanders respectively of the army’s manpower branch and quartermasters department.
Their reports were supplemented by briefings from Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Levy, his deputy, Gen. David Ivri and Defense Ministry Director General Gen. Menahem Meron, in addition to Rabin.